“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi. If this quotation is anything to go by, we have failed miserably as a nation or in Ipoh at least.
Kelly Tan Juat Jong (pic) was not a dog lover and had never owned a pet. All that changed when a neighbour picked up a stray puppy one day, and so began her love affair with dogs. Kelly adopted the pup and appropriately named him Gao Chai (little dog, in Cantonese). That was 16 years ago and Gao Chai died over a year ago.
Today, Kelly and her friend Jacinta Emmanuel, have 50 dogs which they care for and house on a privately-owned piece of land about 17 km from Ipoh and which they have occupied since mid 2007.
The shelter, funded from their own pockets, takes about RM4,000 each month to run. These ladies are by no means rich; one is a housewife and the other in government service. Kelly also goes around in the evening feeding dogs that have homes but are neglected by their owners.
Most of the dogs at the shelter were found in and around Ipoh Garden area where both of them reside. These strays were abandoned by their owners and found wandering the streets rummaging through garbage. Some are thrown alive into rivers and monsoon drains and some tied to trees and bushes. There are many more horror stories that reflect the stupidity and cruelty of humankind but also show the compassion and humanity of people like Kelly and Jacinta.
Having no electricity and water, their ‘shelter’ is about 2 km off the main road and accessible only by a badly pot-holed dirt road; the ladies had to invest in a battered old car to ferry food and water to the dogs. They have stopped using water from the nearby river after the dogs became sick from drinking it.
It takes 22 kg of dry dog food to feed 50 dogs for 2 days plus about 4 tins of canned food or 30 eggs to moisten. A bit of rice is also provided for the few fussy eaters and those who are not well. All the female dogs have been neutered costing an average of RM120 per dog.
Financially strapped and having space constraints at the shelter, Kelly and Jacinta cannot afford to take in any more dogs. However, they are committed to caring for those that they have because they do not believe in putting down healthy animals. They welcome any help in cash, dog food, etc.
Why do they do it? It is not for fame and fortune that’s for sure. What is their driving force? When most of us are immuned to or have turned a blind eye, they see the need to ease a little of the pain and suffering of the poor defenceless creatures they come across.
Our city is better off because of them and others like them, who go around picking up and caring for strays (both dogs and cats) without any aid from the authorities.
In fact, the Ipoh City Council should consider providing the shelter an annual grant for taking the strays from the streets and saving its dog shooters from mercilessly killing the dogs, including puppies.
Their mission is an act of love and compassion to the animals.
Here are some tips on what you can do:
- If you are a pet owner, be a responsible one.
- The care and cleaning of your pet and their ‘deposits’ is solely your job, so ensure your pet does not use your neighbours’ premises (inside or outside) as a toilet.
- Don’t add to the problem of strays. Neuter your pets (both male and female).
- Don’t give your child a pet as a present if you yourself don’t want one. Cute as they may be, a pet is not a toy and it may be dependent on you for at least the next 10 years.
- If you want to help, contact: Jacinta – 012-5150803 and Kelly (in Chinese) – 016-5397192.