0218Singapore Veterinary services, history, dogs, cats,
others. This article is commissioned by Asiahomes Internet to provide information for
younger Singaporeans who want to be vets.
15 Jul 2002
"Be Kind to Pets"
veterinary educational articles are sponsored by AsiaHomes Internet.
Singapore small animal
clinics & hospitals.
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History of small animal veterinarians &
in the 1960 - 2001 Singapore
as recalled by Dr Sing Kong Yuen.
A Government Monopoly?
There was an Animal Infirmary at 40 Kampong Java Road for small animals and horses started
by the British when Singapore was a British colony.
Later, the Primary Production Department of the Ministry of National Development took over
and expanded the premises to include a Vaccine Production Unit to produce swine fever
vaccine and a Veterinary Laboratory to diagnose viral and other diseases as well as do
post mortem of pigs and chickens as well as dogs and cat.
An annex called the CVC (City Veterinary Centre) was famous amongst dog owners and the
agricultural product exporters. There was a stray dog control section and
import-export services centre. I still remember the large number of guppies and
other tropical fishes and orchid flowers presented for export at this place.
The Animal Infirmary was most popular. The location was central, the car park lots
were free and the fees were affordable. As at December 28, 2000, a busy modern
spaceship-looking Kandang Kerbau Hospital for Children and Women's now stands at this
Kampong Java site and there is no more government small animal clinic.
Almost every new graduate joining the Primary Production Department, especially the males,
wanted to work at the Animal Infirmary, but they were often disappointed as there were
only 2 vacancies. Two male graduates had an opportunity to practise there and set up
they later set up private clinics. One lady vet posted directly to the Animal
Infirmary decided to become a banker and was very successful in her career in an American
Since most graduates were government scholars, they were bonded and could not set up their
own practice till 8 years later unless they had several hundred thousands of dollars to
pay off the bond. Was the Animal Infirmary a government monopoly for small animal
practice? No, but it cornered the vast majority of cases owing to its central
location and affordable fees. The operators did not have to worry about rentals as it was
a part of a government premises.
In the 1960s, there were two private practices at Watten Estate set up by two vets.
Illicit Veterinary Practices?
The Government had no provisions for private veterinary clinics set up in the 1960 - 1980
How then could small animal practices be set up? The Housing & Development Board
(HDB) shophouses were not officially approved veterinary premises and therefore private
shops were sought.
The first private practice was set up at a private shop in Watten Estate. Two other
vets set up practices at houses in Tiverton Lane and 313 Bukit Timah Road. There
were two vets practising from homes in Katong. Another vet practised at Seletar
Hills while a lady vet, the first in private practice, set up a clinic at the Braddell
They must be practising with no tomorrows. I vividly recall a private practitioner telling
me that since the deputy director of Primary Production Department was around the famous
Cuppage Centre hawker centre, we had better go to another place for lunch.
This private veterinarian was taking me, a new graduate, out for lunch. That was in 1974
and I assumed this vet would rather not encounter the "cheng hoo" or government
officials who might next slap him with a summons him for "illicit" practice from
his house. In Singapore, residential areas are not permitted to be business
HDB approved veterinary clinics.
In the early 1980, I remember the committee of The Singapore Veterinary Association as
being active in putting up proposals to the Primary Production Department and the
government for proper premises for small animal practitioners. The HDB approved 2
old buildings as premises in Clementi for 2 private practices, The Veterinary Surgery and
The Animal Clinic. These 2 buildings are no more in the year 2000 and the practices
have had established new premises nearby.
Around mid 1980, there were 2 plots of land tendered. The Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital
and James Tan Veterinary Hospital were the successful tenders and both proprietors were
veterinary surgeons. It was said that an offer from a private developer was rejected.
This was probably an opportunity of meeting a great demand for veterinary hospitals
As at 2000, there are no more veterinary hospitals built. Three new clinics are
established located in the East and in the North of Singapore respectively, but the
Serangoon North clinic was a buy out of another practitioner who wanted to migrate to
Australia but now set up one of the three new clinics.
The Clinic For Pets, the Defu Veterinary Surgery and the Toa Payoh Veterinary Surgery were
the first 3 to be approved to practise in designated HDB industrial shops in the
1970s. No veterinary clinics were set up in the HDB industrial parks
Singapore went into recession in the 1985 period. The HDB had a themed pet concept of
having birds, fishes and pets grouped in one locality and the Ang Mo Kio Veterinary Clinic
was a successful tender for the Serangoon North premises.
It was the only one neighbourhood where the shophouses were approved for animals and
fishes and were sold instead of being leased by the HDB. It is was well known and
patronised by animal and fish lovers even though there are new clinics at various
locations in Singapore.
As at December 28, 2000, I was informed by the regulatory URA officials that
veterinary clinics are not industrial operations and therefore not permitted in HDB
industrial parks. This new policy will affect the three clinics set up in the 1970s.
Private shops can be used as veterinary clinics if there is approval of government
departments, namely the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), the Ministry of the Environment and
the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) which is the ex-Primary Production
Department). A fee of around $1,200 with floor plans must be submitted to the URA
which does not guarantee that approval will be automatically given. If there is a
coffee shop next door, the money will be spent in vain as approvals are unlikely.
There are some other conditions.
In the 1990s, more clinics were opened in private premises, starting with the Changi
In the 1990s, younger vets in private practice were mainly private students rather than
ex-civil servants. They were many female veterinary surgeons.
Aound August 1999,
a lady vet opened a clinic at 74 Namly Place. As at July 12, 2002, the new kid
on the block is a clinic in Jalan Kayu set up by Dr Frederick Chua.
The AMK Veterinary
Surgery at 23 Sembawang Road was set up in 2001.
There are many more small animal veterinary practices than before. In the late 1990s,
there was a flow of at least 4 private vets leaving private dog and cat practice to join
the AVA. This reverses the exodus of government vets to the private practices.
Singapore small animal
clinics & hospitals
In the year 2001, vet clinics cannot be set up in the building with central air
conditioning (i.e. shopping malls) and I believe, within 5 shops from the eating shops and
in HDB shophouses.
What are other career options for a young Singaporean since most of the chicken and all
pig farms on which many of my older colleagues practised had been
removed. There is a wide scope in animal disease control and big farm practice.
No local vet in the private sector is full time practising fish, bird or farm
medicine. There are openings for equine practice at the Singapore Turf Club, the
Underwater World, the Jurong Bird Park and the Singapore Zoological Gardens as well at dog
In the diplomatic service, one vet is the current ambassador to China and was representing
Singapore in Taiwan earlier. A retired vet was an ex-ambassador to China. One is a
Minister. One vet had become a banker some years ago.
If you think veterinary service is about dogs and cats, you will be most surprised at the
varied opportunities in Singapore.
Go and do your research rather than wait
for things to happen.
Many pet lovers want to cremate their pets. Charges for a big dog are around
$500. There is only one veterinary surgeon with approval from the Ministry of the
Environment to set up a pet crematorium. As a result of the demand, many
enterprising lay person offer services to "cremate" the pets, but will not
reveal where and how they provide the cremation services.
This is an area where it is hoped that the government will approve more premises for the
setting up of pet crematorium as essentially, the present "legitimate" service
is a monopoly.
There is only one dog and cat quarantine kennel at Jurong, authorised by the AVA.
It is a monopoly status but the operator had won in a public tender. It will be to
the interest of the public if another quarantine kennel can be set up by a competitor but
the new operator may affect the viability of the existing operator and the revenue to the
The Singapore Turf Club has its own quarantine for racehorses at Jurong and at the Club
premises. I believe that racehorses from Australia need not be quarantined.
Dog and Cat breeding.
In the 1970s, many Singaporeans love to breed the toy species of dogs. Some breeders
had as many as 40 dogs for breeding in the private houses. Now, they just buy from
pet shops. The bigger ones import more than 100 puppies per month and there is
a great demand for the groomers.
Cat breeding is not so popular in Singapore. More Malays keep cats as pets. The HDB which
houses around 90% of the population has very strict rules prohibiting the keeping of cats
in HDB apartments. There will be a breach of the HDB leasing rules if the rules are
enforced. Will the HDB occupants be evicted? For the past 50 years, none had been evicted.
Stray dogs and cats
In 2001, very few stray dogs are seen. A few can be seen to wander around military camps
and construction sites, but there is a drastic decrease in numbers as the government dog
catchers had been extremely effective in rounding them up.
There are more stray cats. Stray cats are usually abandoned cats as more Singaporeans are
re-settled from the countryside houses to high rises. They are fed by people at food
courts and hawker centres.
Stray cats hissing and making shrill noises at night are a big complaint. In
November 1997, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority initiated a humane Sterilisation-release
scheme to control the stray cat population in contrast to annual culling and euthanasia of
around 10,000 - 15,000 stray cats per year. Volunteers living in the neighbourhood will be
responsible for the cat welfare after sterilization. The left ear tip of the
spayed cat is cut off and cat lovers believe that the cat pounders will not
nap them or "cull" them. This method of control of stray cats seems to be acceptable by the community.
Pet shops and pet boarding. Many more of such units have been set
up in the 1980s. Some sell fishes, birds, dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits and mice.
How they survive is a mystery to me but there must be a demand for their services and
products as many more are set up in 2000. Koi fishes are the big business and there
are specialty fish shops.
Veterinary Scholarships. Usually there would be one or two
scholarships per year offered, in the 1970s and 1980s. Vets would have to serve
their 8-year bond with the AVA which now has only the regulatory services if the new
graduate wants to be involved in small animals.
Sophisticated small animal hospital for the senior
Singapore's pets are growing older. My wish is that in the near future, there will
be a sophisticated veterinary hospital built to cater to the aged pets.
A place where veterinary specialists from all over the world can operate and be consulted.
Old dogs with cataract eyes can have an artificial lens, facilities to provide
radiation and chemotherapy for aged companions. Iguanas, snakes and other species can be
treated. A research and teaching department to educate and produce a younger
internet generation of Singapore veterinary surgeons. A hospital where pets from the
neighbouring countries can receive the best treatment.
Are there such investors to take the risks? Perhaps a dot.com entrepreneur who loves
animals. Maybe a developer who will be lucky in his tender this
Dogs and cats clientele will predominate in the private practices. Pig farms had
been abolished some years ago. Big chicken farms usually do not need many vets. The
regulatory services and the small animal clinics do need vets. Much depends on whether
you have a passion for animals as this profession will not enrich you as much as in
the great demands for employees in the fields of finance and information technology.
Education article for pet lovers and animal doctors.
"Be Kind to Pets" is an education project to promote the good care of pets. It
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