Welfare groups fear rabbit abandonment will spike with coming Chinese Year

“Many of these cases are most likely because of impulse adoptions or purchases", said the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Gena Soh

Gena Soh

The Straits Times


Each year, SPCA investigates more than 60 cases of animal abandonment. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

January 16, 2023

SINGAPORE – With the Chinese Year of the Rabbit inching closer, some pet welfare groups are concerned that more rabbits will be abandoned after the festive season.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has observed a rise in alleged abandonment cases over the years, with the problem being especially pronounced for small mammals such as rabbits and hamsters, said executive director Aarthi Sankar.

And the spikes in numbers are seasonal, with the SPCA seeing more abandonment cases or surrenders close to festive holidays, she added.

“Many of these cases are most likely because of impulse adoptions or purchases, or due to the lack of sterilisation of pets, which leads to over-breeding… Animal abuse, neglect and abandonment have no place in our society,” said Ms Sankar.

Those found guilty of failure in duty of care to their pets (including pet abandonment) or committing acts of animal cruelty can be charged under the Animals and Birds Act.

First-time offenders who fail in the duty of care to their pets can face a fine of up to $10,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months, or both.

Ms Sankar said: “A pet is a lifetime commitment, and we urge potential pet guardians to deeply consider if they are prepared and have sufficient resources before making this commitment.”

Each year, the SPCA investigates more than 60 cases of animal abandonment. Its premises are home to 200 animals each month – the animals it is now housing include three rabbits, five hamsters, 113 cats and 40 dogs.

Pet rescue group House Rabbit Society Singapore also said it has seen an increase in alleged rabbit abandonment, from 10 cases in 2021 to 17 in 2022.

This was despite a fall in the total number of rabbits surrendered, from 120 in 2021 to 84 in 2022.

The group’s vice-president Jacelyn Heng appealed to the public against getting a rabbit on impulse just because 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, as a pet is “a lifetime of commitment of love, care and money”.

She said: “A rabbit can live up to 10 years, and it needs a veterinarian who is familiar with treating rabbits when it falls sick. Furthermore, the veterinary services are not cheap.”

The rise in pet abandonment cases has also been noted by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), a cluster under the National Parks Board.

According to the agency, 279 cases of animal abandonment were investigated in 2022, up from 225 cases in 2021 and 215 cases in 2020.

AVS group director Jessica Kwok said the cluster works closely with stakeholders, such as animal welfare groups and veterinarians, to promote responsible pet ownership and adoption.

AVS also raises awareness of responsible pet ownership through educational events such as webinars, she added.

Responding to The Straits Times, a spokesman for major pet retail chain Pet Lovers Centre said it does not stock more rabbits ahead of the Year of the Rabbit.

The retailer said: “We have never and still don’t advocate the sale of pets according to the Chinese zodiac calendar, and all our front-line staff have been briefed to discourage impulse buying of small animals, rabbits included.”

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