SINGAPORE – The owners of a dog that was put down in April and the veterinarians involved in the case were found to have not breached the law and code of ethics after investigations by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS).
The euthanasia of the dog named Loki drew widespread public attention earlier this year, with some netizens alleging that Loki’s owners and the vet had put down the dog unnecessarily.
In its four-month-long investigation, AVS said it found that there was “no failure in duty of care or cruelty” by the owners – a married couple – as they had provided Loki with its “basic needs such as food, water, shelter and veterinary attention, and treated it well”.
Three vets from two clinics involved in the case were found to have complied with the code of ethics for veterinarians and other regulations such as the Animals and Birds Act.
In addition, there was no breach of the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act by all parties as “veterinary acts that uphold public safety”, including the humane euthanasia of animals, were considered an essential service during the circuit breaker period.
Therefore, no further action will be taken against the people involved, said AVS in a statement on Tuesday (Sept 15).
The case surfaced on May 6 when a volunteer at animal welfare group Exclusively Mongrels (EM) alleged in a now-deleted Facebook post that Loki’s owners had euthanised their healthy dog, which sparked public outrage.
On May 7, AVS began investigations into this case after receiving a request from EM to do so.
The couple, who lived in a landed property and had previously owned a dog, adopted Loki from EM in December 2017 after viewing it at an adoption drive.
It was noted then that Loki, who was around five to six months old, was “timid, afraid of loud noises, averse to men and nervous around children”.
Over the next two years, the dog grew to be about 25kg and was assessed to be more “confident and confrontational”, and had “panic attacks with no known trigger”.
AVS found that during this time, it had attacked both humans and dogs on about 10 occasions.
In one incident, it had bitten the child of the owners’ friends on her face, under her eye, when the child touched the dog’s toys. The child had to be taken to a hospital’s accident and emergency department.
AVS said the owners had sought various options, such as medication, training and exploring rehoming alternatives over a period of more than one year, before euthanising the dog.
Behavioural modification medication prescribed by vets for the aggression and to reduce anxiety was “not successful in resolving the issues”, said AVS.
A dog trainer, who was engaged to help the dog with its behavioural problems over a period of four months from November last year, noted that Loki had “made some progress” during the first few sessions,
However, training had “limited effect” and it continued to bite people, said AVS.
In March, two attending vets from Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group, the clinic where Loki was ultimately euthanised, suggested rehoming it to an animal shelter in Malaysia.
The plans were put on hold when Malaysia’s movement control order came into effect on March 18.
The last straw came on April 19 when the dog bit one of the owners on the lip without warning.
He had petted it on its head and was reaching over it, “an action done many times before”, said AVS. He received stitches for the wound.
The owners had also noticed that the dog was uncomfortable and nervous around their newborn child, added AVS.
On April 20, the owners called one of the vets at Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group and arranged for an appointment for euthanasia that evening.
“Given Loki’s case history and continued unpredictability, the owners assessed that Loki was a risk to the family and requested to euthanise Loki. The veterinarian agreed, in the interest of public safety,” said AVS.
Loki was put down in the presence of the owners that evening.
The current code of ethics for veterinarians states that “humane euthanasia of animals is an ethical veterinary procedure”.
Under the code, vets must also consider other treatment options prior to considering euthanasia and can reject owners’ request if deemed inappropriate.
EM director Kevin Neo told The Straits Times that the group is “extremely disappointed” with the outcome of the investigations.
“We are extremely disappointed with AVS’ findings. Since we are not privy to their findings, we will have to take consolation that Loki is in a better place now,” he said.
“We hope that Loki will be the last dog to be put down without due consideration and look forward to working closely with the relevant stakeholders to ensure no other healthy dogs will suffer the same fate as Loki.”
EM and Loki’s owners are currently engaged in a civil suit. EM said in a Facebook post on July 20 that the owners have left Singapore.
AVS said it has been conducting a review of the pet sector to raise the standards of animal health and welfare in Singapore since late 2019 and will continue to do so.
A work group, chaired by Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and for National Development Tan Kiat How, has been formed to study the standards and guidelines related to the rehoming and adoption of animals in Singapore.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.