EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Operators of increasingly popular pet hotels and pet cafes must now license their businesses under the Animal Welfare Act 2015 or face action.
Animal lovers and activists have welcomed the development, eager to avoid a repeat of incidents like the “horror hotel” case of 2011 where hundreds of cats were found neglected and in filthy conditions at a pet hotel in the Klang Valley.
While business operators also lauded the move, many of them are still in the dark about the licensing requirements.
The penalty for operating without a licence is a fine of up to RM75,000, two years’ jail or both under the Act, which came into force in July.
Veterinary Services Department director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said licences will be issued to pet-related businesses, but did not say when the rule would be enforced.
Pets Mart general manager Nicole Sew said she learned of the new animal welfare law from the media but was clueless about the licence requirements.
“Applying for the licence should not be a problem as we renew our business permits every year.
“However, we will need to know how to apply,” she said.
She said her company has been in the pet products business, offering grooming and hotel services, for the past 30 years.
“We certainly welcome the new law as our motto says pets should be treated with respect,” she said.
She noted that it would be more appropriate if the law is aimed at “home pet hotels” which operate under the radar of the authorities.
Ace Fong, owner of Woof Station pet cafe, welcomed the need for a licence but also said there was a lack of awareness about it.
“The animal welfare authorities should brief operators on how to apply for the licence.
“I worry the law will be enforced even though many are not aware a licence is needed,” he said.
Malaysian National Animal Welfare Foundation secretary Shrilan Sivagurunathan said the new law was a “wake-up call” for Malaysians to take better care of animals.
“Yes, you can run your business, but do it in a way that is morally right.
“This is what the Act is for – to penalise owners and operators who fail to take care of animals,” he added.
Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) chairman Christine Chin said the operators should be given notice and a grace period to comply with the requirements for the licence.
“The need for a licence is good as it will raise the level of awareness and standard of animal welfare among operators.
“However, it must be done fairly and not seen as a way to penalise them unless they neglect or abuse their animals,” she added.
Chin urged the newly-formed Animal Welfare Board to hold its first meeting as soon as possible to set the licence requirement details.
SPCA Selangor patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye also urged the board to meet as soon as possible.
“I hope the board will meet soon ... as they are the authority on this matter,” Lee said.
He said being licensed was “essential” for pet business operators for authorities to monitor the welfare of animals in their care.
“The purpose of the licensing is to prevent a similar occurrence to the 2011 pet hotel case,” he added.
In 2011, two owners of a pet hotel in Damansara Damai were fined RM6,000 for 30 counts of animal neglect after eight cats under their care died.
The felines died of hunger and dehydration after the operators abandoned 300 cats during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays.
Animal rescue volunteers and the police were forced to break into the centre to rescue the animals, many of which were starving.