AVS expands efforts to manage stray animal population with the opening of the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation, Singapore’s first dedicated facility for animal behavioural rehabilitation
31 Mar 2022
- New centre supports efforts in rehabilitating and rehoming stray animals and develops expertise in animal behaviour through research and education
- Pilot partnership with SPCA to further build up rehabilitation and rehoming capabilities
Today, the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS), a cluster under the National Parks Board (NParks), opened the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation, Singapore’s first dedicated facility for animal behavioural rehabilitation. The opening of the centre marks a key milestone in AVS’ science-based efforts to manage the stray animal population in Singapore, supporting the existing nationwide Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM) programme as well as building on the results of Project Rehab, a pilot canine rehabilitation programme. With a Visitor’s Lounge designed to mimic a home environment, the centre provides a calm and spacious environment for incoming stray animals as they undergo rehabilitation to integrate into life as a pet. In addition, AVS is also partnering the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in a pilot programme to finetune the post-rehabilitation process for stray dogs, to improve their successful integration into homes and the wider community. As Singapore moves towards becoming a City in Nature – a key pillar of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a national movement to chart our course for sustainable development – this initiative will help to promote harmonious living between the animals and the community.
Centre for Animal Rehabilitation consolidates and expands existing stray dog management programmes
Under the TNRM programme, AVS’ priority is to rehome as many trapped and sterilised stray dogs as possible. As the majority of stray dogs are predisposed to fear and anxiety especially when faced with new situations, such as suddenly being placed in a home environment, AVS embarked on a pilot science-based canine rehabilitation programme, Project Rehab, in November 2019 to enhance the rehoming experience. The rehabilitation process includes a physical assessment by AVS veterinarians upon the dog’s arrival, followed by regular behavioural observations and assessments as well as bespoke behaviour modification plans. Thereafter, AVS works with its rehoming partners to rehome the dogs.
Since the start of the pilot Project Rehab, more than 70 stray dogs have been successfully rehabilitated. While previously fearful of people and/or showing aggressive behaviour, these dogs now demonstrate positive behaviour towards humans and are able to live comfortably in a home setting, which increases their chances of being rehomed. This confirmed the need to focus on upstream training and behaviour modification to help stray dogs integrate successfully as pets into both homes and the wider community, improving the rehoming rates of the stray dogs under the TNRM programme. Using insights gained from the pilot rehabilitation programme and in consultation with Dogs Trust, AVS developed the criteria for training and behaviour modification, and refined rehabilitation procedures to suit the needs of our local stray dog population. This new rehabilitation programme will be implemented in the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation.
With a Visitor’s Lounge designed to mirror a home environment, the new centre features a fully furnished living room and dining area, complete with common household items such as a vacuum cleaner and television. This setting helps to familiarise stray dogs with the sight, smell and sound of a typical home and reduces their fear and anxiety when they are adopted into a home. The centre also features several activity rooms for obedience skills training, two dog runs and compartmentalized kennels with blinds. These kennels are specially designed to allow the dogs to exercise choice and control over its living environment, according it privacy and a sense of security. Through training and exposure to the different environments and scenarios that a dog may encounter as a pet in Singapore, the centre and the training programme aims to help prepare the dog to adapt better to its future home and community.
To complement its rehabilitation programme, AVS will also be conducting research that will focus on rehabilitation interventions, shelter management, and animal welfare, to optimise and refine rehabilitation processes and techniques. This will ensure that animal care decisions continue to be evidence-based. Through the building of new capabilities, AVS aims to contribute to the science of stray animal management internationally by developing expertise in companion animal triage, health care and rehabilitation amongst the stray animal community. Such research will continue to inform our animal care decisions, ultimately with the goal of improving animal welfare in shelters and in homes.
Involvement of the community is key in building up post-rehabilitation and rehoming processes
Beyond the rehabilitation programme at the new centre, AVS is partnering SPCA, a lead TNRM and rehoming partner, to finetune the post-rehabilitation phase where rehabilitated stray dogs leave AVS’ care and await to be adopted at shelter facilities of AWGs. The transition between new locations during the adoption process is often very stressful for the dog, and this may lead to some regressing in their behaviour. This not only poses an increased safety risk to the public but may also result in the dog being returned to the shelter.
Through this pilot with SPCA, AVS will testbed and finetune the post-rehabilitation process, such as by reducing the number of transitions for the rehabilitated dogs. There will also be greater collaboration between AVS and the rehoming partner, more information exchange, as well as joint workshops to raise the standards of care and training among volunteers and staff. These processes will be consolidated and shared as best practices to guide rehabilitation and rehoming processes when ready.
The opening of the centre was officiated by Minister of State for National Development & Communications and Information, Mr Tan Kiat How.
 Dogs Trust is UK’s largest dog welfare group and charity.