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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vaccine rules for pet sales extended

AVA rules on mandatory shots apply to pet farms too from this year; some buyers complain of improperly vaccinated pets dying

Miss Shonia Ng and her dog Donut which died from a contagious canine disease because the pet farm she bought it from did not give it proper vaccinations. -- PHOTO: SHONIA NG

MISS Shonia Ng fell in love with a seven-week-old Maltese puppy she saw on Jan 10, and bought it on the spot. Eleven days later, her dog Donut was dead from a contagious canine disease.

Proper vaccinations could have saved it from a painful death, but the puppy had received only one from the Pasir Ris pet farm which sold it to her, instead of the mandatory two shots.

Last month alone, at least three complaints against unscrupulous pet farms have surfaced on Internet pet forums. All cases involved improperly vaccinated puppies which were sold and died soon afterwards.

Four veterinarians who spoke to The Straits Times also confirmed that such cases are not uncommon.

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), puppies have to be vaccinated at least twice before being sold. There must also be an interval of two weeks after the second vaccination before they can be taken home.

At least two vaccinations are needed to give adequate immunity against a range of deadly dog diseases, while a third vaccination within the puppy's first year gives full protection.

While pet shops have always been required to comply with the rules, pet farms, which usually also breed animals in addition to selling them, have had to do so only from Jan 1 this year.

AVA says that it has extended these regulations on the sale of puppies and kittens to pet farms as more of them are selling them directly to customers, instead of through pet shops.

But some pet farms are flouting the rules, say unhappy customers.

Said sales executive Kenny Lee, 23, whose puppy had not been fully vaccinated and died from a virus within a week: 'I had no idea about the regulations, and they didn't bother to tell me.'

An AVA spokesman confirmed that it has received similar complaints, but declined to reveal figures until investigations were completed.

Anyone who breaches AVA's licensing conditions faces a fine of up to $5,000, and recalcitrant offenders may be charged in court.

Over the past two weeks, a Straits Times' check on 10 pet shops and nine pet farm kennels found that five farms were still flouting the rules.

'If anything happens, you must be responsible,' the owner of one such outfit told a buyer.

Another seller revealed that he recently sold an unvaccinated puppy, insisting that 'it's not about the injections, it's how one takes care of the dog'.

Veterinary experts disagree with this.

'Vaccinations are an absolute must for the well-being of a puppy,' said Dr Daphne Ang of Vet Practice.

In their first year, puppies should be vaccinated three times, followed by a yearly booster. This is particularly important since the stress of new surroundings after a puppy is sold may lower its immunity.

Ms Deirdre Moss, executive officer of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said that the cases which are reported are just the tip of the iceberg.

'Such practices are irresponsible.

'If we don't speak up, then the situation won't improve and more animals will suffer,' she said.


Pet shopping tips
  • Observe the animal. It should look bright and alert, not lethargic. Look out for skin problems and discharge around the nose, eyes and ears.
  • Check its vaccination card. Before taking the puppy home, make sure it has had at least two vaccinations, certified by a veterinarian. The second vaccination should have been at least two weeks ago.
  • Verify its age. As the first vaccination can be administered only at six weeks of age, puppies for sale should be at least 11 weeks old. Very young animals tend to be more fragile.
  • Check for licensing and grading. Both pet shops and pet farms must be licensed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Pet shops are also graded by AVA according to compliance with regulations and adoption of best practices. Pet farms, which may also breed the animals, are currently not graded.
  • Look around the shop or farm. The premises should be clean and well kept. Shop attendants should be knowledgeable and concerned about the puppy's welfare.
  • Be wary of short-term health guarantees and indemnity agreements. Symptoms for certain diseases may show only after a week or two. Consult your vet within a day of getting your new pet, even if it seems healthy.
  • Do your homework. Be aware of your responsibilities as a pet owner. Read up on health-care issues for pets. Pet shop and farm licensing conditions can be found at the AVA website:
  • Or adopt from SPCA. Dogs there are all vaccinated and are in need of a home. Visit for more information.
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