Is Singapore Dog-Friendly?

Is Singapore dog-friendly?
Is it easy to rent an apartment that allows dogs?
Do I need a car?

Before we moved here in 2006, we googled about this city-state known for no gum chewing, caning/hanging for drug offences, and chicken rice. What were we getting ourselves into?

What makes a place dog-friendly? Experienced vets. Pet shops selling a good variety of high quality food. Dog parks. Dog-friendly cafes. Well-managed kennels and daycare. Dog walkers. Access to dog-friendly housing. A dog-loving community. Then yes, Singapore is dog-friendly, though not in the way that New York, Vancouver, Paris or San Francisco are.

We have all of that but we also have a young dog-ownership culture. In this urban jungle, people didn’t grow up with dogs and there are still a lot of misconceptions and fears. Parents will often pull their children away, transmitting their owns fears to the next generation, perpetuating false beliefs about dogs. This is slowly changing, due to a more active and growing dog community, where open discussion and dialogue can take place. According to the AVA, 5,500 dogs are imported annually, 85-90% destined to be sold commercially (the rest are personal pets). (Unfortunately nearly 2,500 dogs were received by the SPCA alone in 2010)

The single biggest change for us living in Singapore is the weather. It’s tropical – hot and humid with frequent rainstorms. Living in an apartment, we walk our dogs several times a day. We are just more mindful of the heat and take our long walks either early or late, with quick potty breaks in between. Before the sun rises, cool breezes make early jaunts refreshing. The quiet before the constant traffic and construction noises is also a welcomed reprieve.

We have no issue walking our dogs. We live in a neighbourhood with lots of dogs and people are generally used to it. There is a field nearby that many dogs go for some unofficial off-leash play. We even have a tradition of checking out Orchard Road on Christmas morning to see all the decorations. We are now used to people staring or running away and kids barking or meowing at our dogs. But we also meet kids who love dogs. Toddler squealing with pure joy, laughing and petting our dogs.

To the Muslims here, dogs are dirty and cannot be touched (presumably without taking a full bath before prayer). Muslim taxi drivers won’t take them. We just keep our dogs closer to us out of respect. When the Muslim moving crew came to pack up the apartment, I arranged a playdate for my dog at a friend’s.

Another interesting thing about Singapore (and Asia) is the helper culture. I have met more helpers walking dogs than owners. The upside is that hopefully more dogs get walked, rather than left caged or stuck in the apartment all day. People do complain that their helpers just congregate around the corner to chit chat. And to be honest, I see it all the time.

I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s unfair to expect a helper to walk your dog. These girls need jobs and of course they will say yes in their interview, even if they know nothing about dogs. They may not even like them. On the other hand, it is unfair to the dogs, many overweight, highstrung, and forgotten. At least these dogs are getting some socialization.

As far as housing goes, we did find a difference between Singapore and Hong Kong. It seems that in Hong Kong, entire estates do not allow dogs, here in Singapore, it’s more up to the landlords. Not too many overtly no-dog condos that I know of. Public housing in Hong Kong does not allow dogs and Singapore’s allows a list of approved breeds. For expats, housing is generally not a problem. We have quite a number of friends with pets.  I do want to point out that we don’t live in the heartland and our experience is a little more sheltered.

The size of the dog also makes a difference. More shops and cafes cater to small dogs.  Until recently something like dog beds was far and few for large dogs. It’s definitely easier getting a taxi with small dogs or even one big dog. Now that we have two “large” dogs getting a taxi is more difficult. Calling for one ahead of time (ie paying a booking fee) is usually fine but we’ve still had taxis come round then leave. The key is to find a taxi uncle you can call.  And a few bucks tips is always helpful. Having been here for years, we still don’t find a car necessary. More convenient, yes. Need? No.

Singapore is a green city. Streets are lined with trees. We are surrounded by nature, even if it’s a little sculpted and unnatural. It is safe and living here with a dog is easy. Our dogs love their walks and outings, especially breakfast at the Botanic Garden.

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