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Pet Lovers Centre (PLC) has responded to an incident where a hamster was purportedly 'sandwiched' between two baskets while it was having its cage cleaned in a store.
Animal welfare group Hamster Society Singapore had posted a photo of the hamster on its Facebook page and said a member of the public witnessed the incident at PLC's Ang Mo Kio outlet.
Text on the photo stated that "this is how the hamster was kept, sandwiched between two baskets" while staff at the store were in the process of cage-cleaning.
The Facebook post on Aug 4 also alleged: "Hamsters were being separated by having shopping baskets stacked on top of them with no food or water during this period."
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"Is it that hard to house them in cardboard boxes or even carriers - all sold in your shop?" added the post, which tagged PLC and has since garnered over 1,300 shares.
In response to a Stomp query, a PLC spokesman clarified that the hamsters concerned have not been harmed in any way.
The spokesman told Stomp in a statement: "We thank you for bringing this matter to our notice.
"First and foremost, rest assured that the hamsters concerned have not been harmed in any way and continue to be happy and fine.
"Unfortunately, the way the photograph had been taken as well as what had been personally witnessed fell short of the reality of the situation, which is the fact that there was actually no danger to these hamsters.
"Also rest assured that the baskets are only used temporarily to house hamsters while their small animal enclosures are being cleaned, without posing any danger to them.
"As a matter of fact, these baskets are strong enough to protect the hamsters from harm and coupled with the way they are carefully and safely stacked offer a safe environment to them during this cleaning exercise.
"Furthermore, the whole activity takes only 15 to 20 minutes, hence there is no possibility of food or water deprivation."
Nevertheless, PLC acknowledged that "it’s our goal to constantly do better for our pets", adding: "Hence, we have enhanced our protocol as follows, where we will:
Take out the hamsters from the small animal enclosure and house them into a dedicated container (between 1 ft to 1.5 ft), before the cleaning starts. We will be equipping all our outlets with such suitable containers with a food bowl and water bottle, for the cleaning exercise.
Take out all the accessories and drinking bottle for cleaning and wash it with just plain water.
Clean the bed and wipe the tank with a wet cloth and finally sanitise them using Urine off or Byopet, two powerful but gentle cleansers.
Dry the tank thoroughly before placing a new bed.
Then put back all accessories along with the food and clean water for the hamsters to resume usage.
Put hamsters back inside the small animal enclosure.
"To ensure compliance, our area supervisors and operations managers will be stepping up their periodic checks on all stores.
"We are grateful that you have brought this issue to our attention and we seek everyone’s understanding as we implement our enhanced protocol."