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‘Small, puny, but still a pet’
Saturday, March 14 | 7:17 AM

Read this and tell me if you are not annoyed by Pet Station's indecent proposal.

13 Mar 2009
PET SHOP giveaway
‘Small, puny, but still a pet’
Public outcry over hamster promotion leads to its halt
Loh Chee Kong

SPEND $35 at a pet shop and you can take a hamster home for
 free. If you hold a PAssion Card — a membership card for grassroots leaders — you only need to spend $25.

This joint promotion between Pets’ Station and the People’s Association (PA) sparked a public outcry yesterday after a flyer was sent out by email to PAssion Card holders.

And in a truimph of civic action, the promotion — due to take place next week at Tiong Bahru Plaza where Pets’ Station has an outlet — was stopped even before it could begin.  This was after the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) acted on the complaints.

Readers who wrote to Today were particularly disappointed that a Government agency had endorsed the promotion, including Mr William Fong who was “appalled” when he learnt of it through an online forum. He said: “Pets should never be meant as gifts or presents because having a pet is a lifetime responsibility and commitment.”

Another reader, Dr Tan Chek Wee said he was “deeply shocked and saddened”. Online forum posts described the promotion as “ridiculous”. Said one: “A hamster is very small and puny but it’s still a pet, and should be treated as one ... not like a free gift.”

SPCA executive officer Deirdre Moss told Today the society had received more than 20 email voicing strong objections to the promotion. Besides contacting the AVA, which was “already onto it”, SPCA wrote to the PA to “strongly object to such a practice” and stressed that “pets are living things which shouldn’t be exploited as free gifts for promotional purposes”, said Ms Moss.
Mr Madhavan Kannan, who heads AVA’s centre for animal welfare and control, said the authority had contacted Pets’ Station and “instructed them not to proceed with the promotion”. The pet shop complied.

Reiterating that the AVA bans the sale or gift of animals at exhibitions, Mr Madhavan said this is to prevent impulse buying and subsequent abandonment of pets.

When contacted, Pets’ Station declined to comment as its spokesperson was “unavailable”.  On its part, the PA apologised for its “oversight”.  A PA spokesperson told Today: “When alerted on the concerns raised on Thursday morning, we immediately withdrew the PAssion Card from this promotion, before it could take effect. (We) share the views that pets like hamsters should be cared for by people who are genuinely interested in them.”

Still, Ms Moss gave full marks to the civic action which “resulted in almost instant action by the authorities”. She said: “I was quite stunned and amazed that so many people are speaking up for animals. We are very encouraged that there was so much awareness over
an issue like this.”

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