HDB Dog Ownership. Is it Time for the Rules to Change?

An apartment estate in Singapore. Such blocks ...

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In Singapore, the majority of citizens live in Housing Boarding flats, which have strict regulations on pet ownership. An approved list of dog breeds and no cats. Over the years as more people become dog owners, the one-dog-one-household rule combined with the restriction on the dog breed has become a source of debate and even a demand for the government to review its public housing pet ownership policies. But is changing the current rule going to help Singapore’s problem of homeless and stray animal population?

What are Housing Board flats?
The Housing Development Board (HDB) is responsible for public housing in Singapore. Early on it built low-cost apartments in an attempt to deal with postwar housing shortage, to move people out of slums, and to provide cohesion and patriotism in a young multicultural country. The Home Ownership for the People Scheme later allowed citizens to purchase, instead of rent, their homes, as a way for them to have a stake in the country they were helping to build.

Nowadays, HDB flats come in all sorts of sizes and configurations from one bedrooms to executive masionettes. The Pinnacle@Duxton, for example, even won the 2010 Best Tall Building Asia and Australasia Award. The Pinnacle is certainly not your “traditional-looking” HDB.

According to the 2010 Singapore Statistics report, about 80% of Singaporeans live in HDBs. So for the majority of Singaporeans wanting a dog, they are most likely restricted to the approved small breed list.

Pet Ownership for HDB residents
Currently 62 breeds are listed as approved for HDB residential flats on the AVA website (see end of post for the list). The breeds range from the more “popular” Shih Tzu, Jack Russell, and Chihuahua to the more “exotic” Volpino Italiano and Norwegian Lundehund.

From the HDB website:

HDB allows one dog of an approved breed to be kept in an HDB flat. The approved breeds are small dogs which are generally more manageable. Any flat owner who keeps an unapproved dog breed or has more than one dog on the premises shall be considered guilty of having breached the HDB regulation regarding pets and will be liable for conviction that can amount to a fine of up to a maximum of S$4,000.

According to the Singapore SPCA, cross breeds are allowed, as long as they are less than 10kg and smaller than 40cm at the shoulders.

As specifically stated by the HDB website, the smaller breeds are picked because they are thought to be more manageable. I would think also that smaller dogs are more acceptable (less scary?) in housing estates which have a large number of residents, all from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and with varying animal-tolerance. Muslims, for example, see dogs as “unclean”.

Even though only small breeds are allowed in HDBs, this has not stopped residents from acquiring larger dogs, such as Golden Retrievers. The rumour around town is that neighbours turn a blind eye, as long as no one complains. The problem is when neighbours do complain (with or without reason).  The dog is legally required to be removed from the estates, no matter its age or how long the family has had the dog or even whether the dog is well-behaved or not. This is very common.

Many HDB owners look for an alternative – allowing their dog to be adopted, surrendered, boarded, or temporarily housed with relatives. The pet hotels in Pasir Ris are full of such longterm boarders. Unfortunately each year many dogs are simply abandoned, some becoming strays, but mostly picked up by AVA and destroyed.

Obviously the question of strays and abandoned dogs is a much more complex, disturbing, and frustrating issue – to be discussed at another time.

Dogs in Singapore
Like elsewhere, the number of homeless dogs is only increasing.

I couldn’t easily find the number of dogs in Singapore but from the AVA website about 5,500 dogs are imported each year, with about 85-90% of these dogs being sold commercially. The latest statistics on export was for 1999, with over 1,000 export licenses issued for dogs.

In 2010, SPCA reported taking in over 7,500 animals (about 1,000 were small animals). Considering the yearly number of dogs coming into a city-state with a population of 5M (around 1/2 million of Muslims or non-dog-owners), the number of dogs available for adoption and purchase is staggering. And this is based on official statistics. A lot of dogs “change hands” over the internet – just check out some of the dog forums.

Even if HDB dwellers wanted to adopt, their choice is restricted. “Qualified” dogs rarely stay long at the SPCA. Changing the HDB pet ownership law would probably help get more dogs (mongrels as well as larger purebreeds) adopted. People may adopt a second or third dog. But the HDB pet ownership law is not the root of the problem.

I don’t know what is the root of the problem. I think it is due to a lack of understanding the dog as a species which may lead to abuse and abandonment, economic downturn which has seen many giving up their pets, and a general undercurrent of malaise and an emptiness that push people to seek externally for happiness.

So to those who think that changing the HDB pet ownership rules will help, you may be partially correct but you may also be opening the pandora’s box of more people becoming unsuitable dog owners. Look around the world, in most places where there is deepening rehoming issues, people are not restricted on dog ownership. Allowing freer HDB regulations, while it reflects a more democratic and liberal society, is not necessarily best for the welfare of the dogs.

What we need is education. People need to understand what a dog needs to thrive and be well-adjusted. People need to understand not only dogs but themselves, to seek within to know that they are truly ready to be dog owners. The key perhaps is that we are not owners but keepers. Dogs are not property and dogs are for life.

We as a species need to demonstrate more compassion and love for others. When that happens, we will cherish our pets and each other.  We will not stand by and allow abuse to go on. We probably won’t need to resort to abuse. We will not allow slack government regulations on breeding and the sale of animals. We have to go at this issue from both the demand and supply sides. People who sell animals are in it for the profit, not for the love of animals. Do you love animals?


  1. Affenpinscher
  2. Australian Silky Terrier
  3. Australian Terrier
  4. Bichon Avanese
  5. Bichon Frise
  6. Border Terrier
  7. Boston Terrier (Light and Middleweight)
  8. Bohemian Terrier
  9. Bolognese
  10. Brussels Griffon (Griffon Bruxellois)
  11. Cairn Terrier
  12. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  13. Chihuahua
  14. Chinese Crested Dog
  15. Chinese Imperial Chin
  16. Chinese Temple Dog (Classic and Miniature)
  17. Coton de tulear
  18. Czech Terrier
  19. Dachshund (Light and Miniature)
  20. Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  21. English Toy Spaniel
  22. German Hunting Terrier
  23. Griffon Belge
  24. Griffon Brabancon
  25. Hairless Dog
  26. Italian Greyhound
  27. Jack Russell Terrier
  28. Japanese Spaniel (Chin)
  29. Japanese Spitz
  30. Lakeland Terrier
  31. Lhasa Apso
  32. Little Lion Dog
  33. Maltese
  34. Manchester Terrier
  35. Miniature Pinscher
  36. Miniature Schnauzer
  37. Norfolk Terrier
  38. Norwegian Lundehund
  39. Norwich Terrier
  40. Papillon
  41. Pekingese
  42. Pomeranian
  43. Poodle (Toy/Minature)
  44. Pug
  45. Schipperkee
  46. Scottish Terrier
  47. Sealyham Terrier
  48. Shetland Sheepdog
  49. Shih Tzu
  50. Silky Terrier
  51. Small Continental Spaniel
  52. Small English Terrier
  53. Small Spitz
  54. Smooth Fox Terrier
  55. Tibetan Spaniel
  56. Toy Fox Terrier
  57. Toy Terrier
  58. Volpino Italiano
  59. Welsh Terrier
  60. West Highland Terrier
  61. Wire-haired Fox Terrier
  62. Yorkshire Terrier

4 thoughts on “HDB Dog Ownership. Is it Time for the Rules to Change?

  1. White Bridger, I stumbled across your post while looking for 2013 stats about dogs in Singapore. Thanks for this! 🙂 Love the post. Can you share the AVA link where you got the number of dogs imported into SG annually? Thanks so much!

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