SINGAPORE — A woman was asked by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to rehome eight of the 11 dogs found in her landed home in 2016.
However, after Leow Suat Hong rehoused some of her dogs in a Pasir Ris Farmway boarding facility, the authorities visited the area and found 50 dogs belonging to her - all were of the Bichon Frise-Maltese mix. Of these, 14 were already dead.
Leow claimed trial to two charges on Wednesday (7 April). One charge is for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that one of her dogs was protected from and rapidly diagnosed of any disease, by failing to bring the male Bichon Frise-Maltese dog to a veterinarian for vaccination and treatment for parvovirus. This resulted in the dog, which was boarded at The Pet Hotel at Pasir Ris Farmway before October 2016, having a low body condition score of 1 out of 9. It eventually died from the illness.
Leow's other charge is for failing to bring another female dog of the same breed to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment, resulting in the dog suffering from bilateral ear infection. The dog was boarded at The Animal Lodge at 59 Sungei Tengah Road before 19 June 2018.
Another 51 charges of a similar nature relating to the dogs being unlicensed or not being properly cared for were stood down.
The 49-year-old Singaporean denied the charge for the male dog, claiming that she did bring it to a veterinarian in Balestier but was turned away as her dog had the deadly canine parvovirus. Instead, she blamed the AVA for not informing her of the virus before she lodged her dogs at The Pet Hotel.
Former AVA investigating officer Ong Jun Xiong, who handled Leow's case, testified on Wednesday that he received feedback from the National Environment Agency about an animal welfare case in February 2016. The case was at a landed property along Starlight Road, where Leow lived.
Acting on the information, the AVA team went down to the location a few times before managing to meet Leow, who was the owner of the property. Leow asked the team to fix an appointment for another day to inspect or examine her dogs as the house was very dirty.
When AVA next visited in February or March 2016, Leow refused the officers entry. Instead, she brought the 11 dogs to the front gate and handed the dogs to the officers for inspection.
Ong said that the officers were afraid that the dogs would make an escape. One of the dogs did so but the officers managed to retrieve it.
As landed property owners could only keep a maximum of three dogs, the officers advised Leow to rehome the dogs, or hand them over to animal welfare groups. They also advised her to microchip and license her dogs.
According to Ong, Leow was reluctant to rehome the dogs from March to October 2016. The officers later advised her to keep the dogs at a boarding facility and she did.
A few days before 20 October 2016, Leow called Ong, saying that she needed AVA assistance as her dogs were "dying one by one".
In October 2016, the AVA officers visited The Pet Hotel, where the dogs were, and found 50 of Leow's dogs. Fourteen of these had already died, according to Ong, who is now with the Land Transport Authority. Leow claimed that she had disposed of another 10 dead dogs before the officers arrived.
The officers advised Leow to do a test on all the live dogs to separate the infected dogs from the healthy ones.
Leow never told the officers why she had so many dogs, said Ong.
As for the female dog, Ong said the AVA received feedback from welfare group Voices For Animals in June 2018 stating that the dogs were heavily infested with ticks, among other concerns, while they were housed at The Animal Lodge. When officers visited the facility, they saw dogs with blood and loose stool, with one dog pregnant.
Officers then called a few veterinarians to treat the dogs.
When asked to cross-examine Ong, Leow, who was unrepresented, denied telling Ong that she said her dogs were dying one by one.
"I said the dogs were bleeding and having diarrhoea non-stop," said Leow, prompting Ong to respond, "Then how do you explain the 14 carcasses?"
District Judge May Mesenas then intervened and said the trial was not supposed to be "a running conversation".
Leow claimed that she had brought a few ill dogs, including the male dog in question, to a veterinarian in Balestier for treatment, but the veterinarian had told her to put down the dogs, as the parvovirus was incurable.
"She took one look and she could tell it was the parvovirus, she disallowed me to go in. She explained to me (there was) no medicine to cure the parvovirus, she told me they were going to die, they cannot be cured," she said.
Leow said she refused to put down her dogs. Asked by DJ Mesenas if she had any receipts to support her visit to the veterinarian, Leow said she did not have any as she was refused entry.
Leow also blamed AVA for not informing her of the parvovirus outbreak before she moved her dogs to The Pet Hotel.
"Do you think you are not doing a good job as an AVA officer not knowing that there was an outbreak at The Pet Hotel before I moved in? I have cooperated with you since I got to know you at Starlight Road. There is no missing in action, even my dog dying I told you the truth," said Leow.
Ong said that he had not been aware of any virus outbreak and redirected the question to AVA.
Four veterinarians, including two from private clinics, are set to testify in the trial, which continues on Thursday morning.
If convicted of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure her dog is rapidly diagnosed, Leow may be jailed up to a year and/or fined up to $10,000.
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