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The Straits Times
Feb 8, 2023
A pre-school that allegedly neglected to care for an injured hamster is under investigation by the authorities.
In response to queries, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), which comes under the National Parks Board (NParks), said on Tuesday that it was investigating the case, which is believed to involve a reputable local pre-school in the east.
The pre-school had allegedly neglected to care for the classroom pet – a female hamster named Pamkin – which suffered injuries from fighting with a male hamster that it was housed with, said non-profit group Hamster Society (Singapore) (HSS) in an Instagram post.
A child from the pre-school had taken Pamkin home over the Chinese New Year weekend, which led to a visiting relative noticing the hamster’s condition and the family members taking it to a vet, the volunteer group said.
Pamkin had extensive injuries including a fungal infection, swelling, a build-up of pus near its right eye, and scabs, the group added.
The hamster has since been handed over to HSS by family members of the child and is under the care of an experienced fosterer, said Ms Sim Jia Yi, head of the group’s foster team and screening team.
The family and society have paid about $500 so far for the hamster’s treatment, she said.
Responding to queries, NParks group director for AVS Jessica Kwok said: “AVS takes all cases related to animal welfare seriously and investigates all feedback.”
“We will take necessary and appropriate enforcement action against anyone who does not provide adequate care for their pet or has committed an act of animal cruelty.”
She reminded pet owners to be responsible and provide the appropriate level of care for animals, which includes ensuring their pet’s shelter is safe and providing suitable food and water regularly.
Ms Kwok added: “Those who are unable to care for their pets should find a suitable home for them or approach an animal welfare group for help to rehome their pet.”
While Pamkin is on the mend, Ms Sim said the incident reflects concerns about classroom pets, which risk being neglected during school holidays and when they fall sick.
The group has been involved in two other rescues from pre-schools, and would usually offer pet care workshops to the schools involved, she noted.
Said Ms Sim: “In a setting where kids are supposed to be the priority, sick class pets may not receive the attention they need in time, which can lead to death.
“And the cycle repeats itself when a “cheap pet” dies and gets replaced by another pet.”
An online petition last Friday calling for the ban of class pets has gained 970 signees as at Wednesday.
An Early Childhood Development Agency spokesman told The Straits Times on Wednesday that it was aware of the investigation and urged pre-schools to comply with laws and regulations.
Responding to claims that a class pet was compulsory under its Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (Spark), the spokesman said: “We would like to clarify that under Spark, it has never been a requirement for pre-schools to have classroom pets.”
First-time offenders who are guilty of failure in the duty of care to their pets can be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to 12 months, or both.
Meanwhile, first-time offenders who commit an act of animal cruelty can be fined up to $15,000, jailed up to 18 months, or both.
Repeat offenders face a maximum fine of $30,000, a jail term of up to three years, or both.