By now, any animal lover in Singapore should know what the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore has been up to recently. After taking in a micro-chipped Golden Retriever, ostensibly to help find its owner, it put the dog to sleep. This despite the finder saying she would re-home the dog if the existing owner could not be found.
Of course, AVA released the usual statement that it had tried all avenues to locate the owner, but could not do so. Meanwhile, the dog’s condition deteriorated in AVA’s care, thus necessitating euthanasia.
However, the condition of the animal before handing over to AVA, as shown by the finder, was not as serious as made out to be.
That raises the question of what exactly happened at AVA. Was there dishonesty or negligence? Is their internal communications system flawed? Did they really do as much as they could have, considering a life was at stake?
Did AVA even account for the poor Golden Retriever’s welfare, and try to keep the concerned finder in the loop? Isn’t engaging the citizens one of the new resolutions of the government? They had a vulnerable animal’s life in their hands, but it seems like just another statistic to them!
Before we delve into all this, let’s make clear what the issue isn’t. It isn’t that AVA didn’t have time to take care of the dog. And we certainly aren’t faulting them for not being able to trace the owner. It isn’t even that their call centre gave out wrong information to the finder. The real issue here is that they allowed it to deteriorate after taking responsibility for it, despite the finder’s obvious willingness to care for it, then finally put it to sleep because it was too far gone. They compounded one mistake after another, when they had humane alternatives to try and keep the dog alive. Of course, if the dog was not decrepit at the time they put it to sleep, then their position is even more untenable.
Doesn’t this sound like a failure of their standard operating procedure (SOP) or protocol? Did the option of returning the animal to a willing caregiver not get passed along to decision makers? If, as they claimed, the dog had lost its appetite, “despite the care and veterinary attention given”, they should have contacted the concerned party, that is, the finder, immediately.
Even after this series of mistakes resulted in a grave consequence, AVA’s brushing off the matter in a public response reeks of a similar callousness that led to the dog’s demise in the first place.
This seeming chain of mistakes and lapses in due diligence needs addressing, and someone in charge must step up to take responsibility and make the appropriate changes to any culture of callousness.
If not, what kind of message is being sent to the public? Is the civil service allowed to get away with apparent negligence or bad management? Are authorities sincere about animal treatment and pet care, or is the “Responsible Pet Ownership (RPO)” campaign just smoke and mirrors? Have their actions shown that they put their money where their mouth is?
We at More on Paws and Claws would like to petition the authorities to conduct a full and transparent accounting of what happened within the organisation that led to such a complete mishandling of the situation.
The findings must be made public, with a plan of action to address:
- Flow of communication from member of public (finder) to decision maker
- Point of failure in communications and protocol
- Why the finder was not kept updated on dog’s health?
- Why didn’t they seek humane alternatives before point of no return?
- Is the system capable of catering to the needs of lost and found animals, via robust tracking and situational updates?
- If not, why not, in light of the RPO campaign?
- Who were the responsible persons and decision makers in handling this case?
- Is retraining of staff needed, or perhaps staff more empathetic to animals’ fates?
- Is redesign of SOP required, to prevent further occurrences?
If the call centre officer doesn’t feel responsible for this small life, then what about the manager? If not the manager, then perhaps her superior should take responsibility. If not, then what about the head of the AVA? If AVA feels this is not their responsibility, then we request that a higher agency look into it. We understand that AVA is parked under the Ministry of National Development.
We believe that simply following SOP to “cover ass” is no longer enough. Simply following procedure like robots is also no longer enough. Highly paid civil servants and ministers are expected to live up to their salaries, making decisions that are intelligent and empathetic. If we cannot trust the civil service to take proper care of a dog, can we trust them for more important things, such as the lives of citizens?
If you feel as strongly about this as we do, whether because you are a pet lover, or are concerned about accountability in the civil service, please join us in the Facebook event and sign the petition for this very purpose.
Kindly assist to promote awareness of this incident and make your contribution as a pet lover. Please help us prevent a reoccurrence of such an unfortunate event by SHARING and, or even emailing this article to your likeminded friends to garner even more support for our quest to answers and fair action. Thank you!
Join us in Facebook and let us know your views: https://www.facebook.com/events/624112100939026/
Sign our petition: http://tinyurl.com/bu4o468