Three thousand vets are in Singapore now. They are part of the world’s largest association of small-animal veterinarians have gathered in Singapore for the first time, aiming to advance the health and welfare of pets, and highlight vets’ roles as animal welfare advocates.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which has more than 200,000 members, launched a set of global guidelines on Tuesday (Sept 25) that aims to bridge the different perceptions of animal welfare around the world, and tackle the ethical difficulties around the issue.

“As veterinarians, our responsibility extends far beyond the physical health and welfare of our patients,” incoming WSAVA president Shane Ryan told attendees at the organisation’s 43rd congress.

“Animal welfare as a science is a new and rapidly developing discipline and veterinarians need current, evidence-based information to enable them to maintain the highest welfare standards and to provide knowledgeable, accurate advice for pet owners.

“As levels of pet ownership increase in many regions of the world, including Asia, it is essential that veterinarians champion animal welfare.”

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Some of the ethical topics covered in the global guidelines include euthanasia, sterilisation and the selective breeding of pets.

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Speaking as guest of honour, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam highlighted the role vets play in combating zoonotic diseases – illnesses that are passed from animals to humans, protecting animal welfare, and dealing with strays.

“We’ve been rabies-free since 1953 and we’ve worked very hard to maintain that status, but it is still a threat in the region and so constant vigilance is needed,” said Mr Shanmugam.

He said that stray animals also cause challenges in dense cities like Singapore, and that for every one person who understands animals there is another who wants the authorities to “get rid of the ‘problem'”.

Speaking about the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), he said: “It’s inspiring that over the past few years we’ve had so many vets step forward and work with AVA on this, and that AVA now has a trap-neuter-release-manage programme, which is much better than culling.”

Announced last December, the five-year trap-neuter-release-manage programme aims to manage Singapore’s stray dog population.

Mr Shanmugam told the conference: “We look to vets like yourself to create a world where animals can live contented, healthy lives and where public health is protected at the same time.”

More than 3,000 vets are in Singapore for the congress at Marina Bay Sands, which runs until Sept 28.