The guests lean over the side of the boat to catch the morning breeze as their catamaran eases off from a jetty in Singapore. A typical cruise, except that the passengers are dogs.

“Actually, this is their third cruise,” said Andy Pe, 43, the doting owner of two Black Labrador Retrievers, a Yellow Labrador, a Golden Retriever and two mongrels. “They enjoy the sea breeze and water so much.”

From boat cruises and spas to their own obituary section in the leading newspaper, pets are pampered in a big way in Singapore, a city-state with one of Asia’s highest standards of living.

Boat owner Joe Howe, 48, started the Pet Cruise company last July. His 26-foot motor catamaran, which comes with a swimming deck, has a fully-stocked cleaning station and life jackets for dogs. On weekends, a basic cruise lasting two hours costs Sg$40 per guest — human or pet — or Sg$400 to book the entire boat.Anything for my pet

According to official data, there were 57,000 registered dogs in 2012 in Singapore. There are more than 250 licensed pet shops in the city-state offering everything from hamsters priced at Sg$10 to pure breed dogs costing thousands.

Marcus Khoo, the executive director of Petopia, said owners are willing to pay a premium for their pets’ well-being.

A 20-minute microbubble bath treatment for an odour-free coat can cost anywhere between Sg$64 to Sg$119. Dog yoga — or Doga — is also catching on in Singapore after becoming popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“Pets are left at home for hours, so Doga is a way for owners and dogs to bond,” said Rosalind Ow, 42, the owner of Super Cuddles Clubhouse.

Luxury options extend to the departed. Owners can publish tributes to their deceased pets in the classified ads section of the city-state’s leading daily The Straits Times on Sundays. At the suburban Pets Cremation Center, niches can be rented at a columbarium after the funeral services costing around Sg$300.

The darker side

But there is a darker side to the growing fondness for pets in Singapore — some of the animals end up being dumped after the novelty wears off and the reality of long-term caring sets in. “A lot of people wouldn’t bat an eyelid on spending several thousand dollars on a dog. The litmus test is whether the dog stays with them for the rest of its life or not,” said the SPCA’s Corinne Fong which takes in up to 600 unwanted or abandoned animals each month. “Society at large is not quite there yet,” she added.AFP