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Living with Pets in High-Rise Homes

In land-scarce Singapore, many of us live in HDB flats, high-rise buildings or high-density environments. Find out what you have to consider when an animal companion shares your home in these cases.

After a late night out, you walk along the corridor of your level in your HDB flat, trying to be as surreptitious and quiet as possible. “Woof, woof, woof!” As you walk by your neighbour’s unit, their resident miniature Schnauzer starts barking at you furiously. Eventually, other dogs in the flat are joining in the barking, and causing a uninvited din in the middle of the night.

This is just one of the problems dog owners have to face, and it is in part exacerbated by the close proximity of the units in many HDB-flats or high-rise building. According to the HDB (Housing Development Board) policies on owning a pet in its quarters, its key objective is to present and preserve a pleasant and enjoyable living environment of its residents, be they pet-owners, or not. As such, the current regulation regarding pets is to allow only certain dog breeds, fish, hamsters, rabbits and birds. Besides dogs, the latter animals are generally not noisy, and hence are less of a potential nuisance to neighbours.

HDB Housing – No Cats Allowed

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For dogs, there is a list of approved breeds which includes small dog-breeds such as Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranian and Poodles, as they are considered more manageable. Larger breeds or other non-approved breeds are subject to an appeal via a case-by-case basis. Either way, only one dog can be kept per unit –– else, owners would have to pay a penalty fine of SGD$4,000. As for cats, they are not allowed at all within flat premises.

According to a statement on the HDB website as of 05 April 2015, this regulation is established “as it is generally difficult to confine cats within the flat premises. Nuisance caused by cats such as shedding of their fur, defacating/urinating in public areas or even the caterwauling sounds that they make can cause a lot of disturbance, which affects the envrionment and disrupts neighbourliness in our housing estates”.

Dogs: Work in a Work-out

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Besides making sure that your pet is allowed and suitable for your HDB flat/high-rise apartment, it is also important to meet their needs for exercise as well as companionship. While fish, bunnies and the like do fine with minimal exercise, this is not true of dogs. Without a yard or garden that is often available with landed properties, high-rise dwellers must find alternatives to bring their dog for a walk. Thankfully, this is pretty easy to do in Singapore with its wealth of parks and connectors, with even special dog run spaces found at parks such as Bishan Park or West Coast Park.

Simply take your dog out for a walk at least once a day if possible, increasing the length of time or frequency if it is a breed with a higher level of energy. Your dog might even learn to socialise if you happen to meet fellow dog-walkers at these public parks and garden spaces!

Keep it Entertained

Kyjen Treat Wheel Puzzle

However, it is also important to ensure your dog is stimulated even at home, so that they do not act out due to boredom or excess energy. High-rise building units or HDB flat units tend to be smaller, so your dog may quickly become bored with its surrounding environment if there is insufficient stimuli. This might lead to attention-seeking behaviour, or even crankiness and aggression. One way to combat this then would be to have a wide variety of toys to keep your pet entertained while at home. For example, plush toys and rope bones are simple toys that your canine friend can enjoy. If you are not at home often, you might also want to consider doggie daycare or pet sitters in order to give your dog attention throughout the day.

All in all, keeping a pet in a HDB flat or high-rise is similar to keeping them in a bigger space – it all just boils down to individual pet owner responsibility and the ability to pay attention to your pets’ needs, as well as some consideration for your neighbours. The result? A happy, more pet-friendly community to live in and call your home.

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