By Mariam Mokhtar
Stray dogs are a nuisance but catching them will not solve the problem. The authorities have limited resources but more important, it is also the responsibility of dog owners and dog breeders. To resolve the stray dog issue, we should find out why there are stray dogs.
Has a stray dog survey ever been done? How do present results compare with older records? Who takes cares of the strays? How qualified are the staff in the pounds? What percentage of the total (of stray dogs), is put down if they are unable to be found a home?
The inhumane killing of dogs has sparked public outcries in Ipoh, but with the ban on shooting, the number of stray dogs has increased to worrying levels. If a solution is not found soon, the conflict between dog lovers, animal welfare groups and the authorities, who are acting in the interests of the public, may escalate again.
The story of Spunk, the companion and therapy dog to a 77-year-old lady from Ipoh, is still fresh in our minds. Spunk was killed in late 2010 by council dog-catchers who shot him dead when his owner left him unattended, at their house gate, for a few minutes. Ipoh City Council (MBI) enforcement officers “mistook” Spunk for a stray.
The cruel death of this licensed dog, forced the authorities to review their stray animals policy. After meetings with animal welfare and animal rights groups, the MBI secretary Abdul Rahim Mohd Ariff announced an immediate ban on the shooting of dogs in Ipoh.
At the time, many pet lovers wondered how long this “amnesty” would last. Recently, a new stray dog problem has been highlighted in the mainstream papers.
Last month, traders and ordinary residents reported an increase in stray dogs in areas around markets, hawker centres and residential areas. Many children and adults were afraid to walk in the vicinity of their homes, because of marauding packs of dogs roaming freely in their neighbourhood. Others feared for their children’s safety. Issues of health and hygiene have also been highlighted.
The Perak Malay Hawkers and Small Traders Association president Omar Ahmad claimed that the problem had worsened over the years. He has demanded immediate action from the authorities, namely the MBI and the health ministry.
Omar said, “Previously, we used to see them only near the food courts and markets. Now, they’re everywhere, including residential areas. Something should be done fast by MBI to resolve the matter before untoward incidents occur.”
In one incident in Gunung Rapat, a teenage boy fell off his motorbike, when he was pursued by a stray dog, He panicked and hit a parked car. He sustained bruises and needed stitches for a head injury.
People in various residential areas such as Ampang Baru and Taman Cempaka, are increasingly worried about these stray dogs. No human has been attacked but these residents would like the MBI to do something about the dogs before serious problems arise.
They refer to the health hazards caused by dogs rummaging through litter bins scavenging for food and the unsightly scenes of litter strewn around dustbin sites.Afraid of their children being attacked, parents have, as a precaution, stopped their children from playing outside their homes.
The council has issued a statement claiming that catching the dogs was not as effective as shooting them. They claim that the dogs run away, to evade capture, whenever there were attempts to round them up.
On June 5, the MBI announced that they have sought professional help to resolve the stray dog problem. Mayor Roshidi Hashim announced that a tender had been awarded the previous month, to a company which would be paid RM45 for every stray caught unharmed.
Roshidi said, “The council received an increasing number of reports on stray dogs requiring immediate action. Since we can’t shoot the dogs, we have awarded a tender that will carry out the humane way of dogcatching.” Reassuring the the public, he said, “In cases involving public safety, I will take the blame,” and said that the council would act should any dog be injured or pose a public threat.
Perhaps, one of the ways to resolve the stray dog problem would be for the MBI to conduct a “Stray Dog Survey”, for each of the districts served by the council. That might show us the true extent and severity of the stray dog problem.
Most of all, dog owners must act responsibly if the problem of stray dogs is to be effectively managed and dogs spared from being killed. Malaysians are well aware of irresponsible people who own pedigree dogs just to show off.
As responsible dog owners know, one of the most effective ways of reducing the number of strays is to neuter their dogs to prevent unwanted and unplanned litters. Having their dogs microchipped and tagged are also essential so that dog and owner can be reunited easily in case they are separated.
Resources, the availability of dedicated and trained staff at aninal welfare groups and NGOs are limited and the MBI can only do so much. Capturing the dogs should not be seen as the best or only way of preventing the stray dog menace. The most effective way is by a concerted campaign of education, public awareness and a responsible attitude to dog ownership and breeding.