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    Jan 15, 2014

    Govt to get tough on animal abusers

    STIFFER fines and longer jail terms will be dished out to animal abusers, revealed Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.

    The enhanced penalties will send a strong deterrent message, he explained at the opening ceremony of the Asia for Animals Conference.

    Currently, those convicted of animal cruelty under the Animals and Birds Act can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both.

    But under recommendations made by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee and accepted by the National Development Ministry, the penalty for repeat offenders could be increased to a fine of up to $50,000, a jail term of up to three years, or both.

    Offenders could also be banned from keeping animals for up to one year.

    The minister told reporters that the legislation would go through this year. Chief executive Louis Ng of animal-welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) also said that a Bill will be introduced in Parliament this year.

    Mr Shanmugam, who is a known animal-welfare advocate, said that education will be another key focus in the Government's efforts to tackle animal cruelty. He said this is because "substantive change" can be achieved only if legislation is accompanied by education.

    In his speech, he welcomed the Education Ministry's move to include the importance of animal welfare in the school syllabus.

    "The next generation is growing up knowing the importance of animal welfare," he told reporters on the sidelines of the event.

    Founder Cathy Strong of animal-welfare group Animal Lovers League said that the measures, while commendable, have to be enforced strictly in order for them to achieve their purpose.

    "Even under existing laws, I've never seen anyone fined $10,000 - even for the worst cases of animal cruelty, like throwing a cat out of a window," she said. "The fine should not be just a mere slap on the wrist."

    The five-day Asia for Animals Conference, which is hosted by Acres, kicked off on Monday at the Furama RiverFront Hotel. About 320 delegates from more than 30 countries are attending.

    This is the third time that Singapore is hosting the biennial event since it was started in 2001 by the Asia for Animals (AfA) Coalition, a group of 14 animal-welfare organisations.