Let’s treat our strays the Malaysia Madani way

K. Kabilan

It is time to end the inhumane act of catching and killing strays, and to have a more holistic approach to finding permanent humane solutions. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 1, 2023.

Commentary by K. Kabilan

THE way stray dogs are treated in this country is utterly shameful. Not just strays, even some dogs with owners also suffer a despicable fate in the hands of their so-called guardians.

Adding to that is the cruel manner in which local council enforcement personnel or third-party contractors ill-treat dogs – both strays and those with owners.

At present, these dog-catchers can seemingly do no wrong in fulfilling their mandate to clean the streets of these four-legged creatures. They are free to use whatever force they can to capture the dogs, including manhandling people who try to protect these animals.

Stories about how these dogs are mistreated and tortured are regular features in our media. Sometimes those who try to protect these animals themselves become victims.

Last week an 85-year-old man died while trying to save his dog from being caught by the Bentong local council. Reports revealed he had fallen into a drain while tussling with an enforcement officer and died.

Police have classified the case as a sudden death and warned everyone not to speculate about the incident, make inappropriate comments on social media, or raise racial issues.

Bentong MP Young Syefura Othman meanwhile urged the government and local councils to come up with clear guidelines for dog-catching to prevent more untoward incidents.

Earlier in March, Petaling Jaya City Council enforcement officers allegedly assaulted a pensioner during a dog-catching operation.

Thankfully he did not lose his life but he was charged with obstructing public servants from discharging their duties. No action had been taken against the officer who allegedly hit the man as it had been an “accident”.

Just a couple of days ago, another news report went viral – of how a dog owner had tied his dog to a car and dragged it. The dog suffered a painful death. The dog owner was arrested and faces possible charges of animal cruelty.

Earlier this year, there was a news report of dogs at the Kuala Langat Municipal Council dog pound found starved and unattended for an extended period of time.

The list of cruelty against dogs in this country goes on. It is hell for these strays. The modus operandi for the local councils is to capture them by all means, and ensure that these dogs are never seen again, whatever it takes.

Stray dogs lounge in a field near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, August 23, 2022. The writer says Malaysia can learn from Turkey in managing its stray population. – AFP pic, June 1, 2023.

It is time now to end the inhumane act of catching and killing strays, and to have a more holistic approach to find permanent humane solutions.

Animal lovers and pet activists have suggested numerous ways to solve this situation – from re-examination of the standard operating procedure of pound management to preservation of animal welfare via community-based campaigns.

There have also been suggestions to educate everyone on responsible pet ownership, including by teaching them in schools.

Others that have been mentioned are scheduled periodic visits to animal shelters, and to conduct training on neutering or spaying of animals as a joint effort between animal welfare officers and animal lovers.

In all these, the idea of a nationwide scale campaign of spaying or neutering strays has often been repeated.

However for this to be done effectively, there must be political will and willingness for local authorities to work with all parties.

Malaysia can take the example of how Turkey overcame its stray problems.

The Turkish government has implemented a successful programme to manage its stray dog population, which has gained international recognition for its success. The strays are captured, vaccinated, sterilised, and then released back into the community, with many being adopted by locals.

The authorities there implant microchips on these strays for identification purposes and to provide them with medical care and food.

Stray dogs that are deemed too sick or aggressive are taken to shelters where they are cared for and put up for adoption. The local community also plays its part by feeding and caring for stray dogs in their neighbourhoods.

This has been extremely effective in reducing the number of strays on the streets there.

Perhaps, as part of the Malaysia Madani concept – which includes elements of respect and compassion – the government should start moving at full speed to treat strays in a more humane way, and find solutions to the problems without the need to kill the dogs. – June 1, 2023.

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