Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation, and its moral progress, can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” In early June, the intervention of concerned Malaysians, on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, managed to halt the controversial and cruel ‘RM10 for each dog’ campaign in Tanjung Malim.

The idea was for the residents of Tanjung Malim and Slim River, to help the council control the number of stray dogs in the area. The campaign, which was slated to run from June 3-12, encouraged residents to exchange dogs for cash.

Instead of getting the people’s support, many Malaysians were outraged, and by midnight on June 2, the council was forced to withdraw the campaign, from its Facebook site.

Dr Ranjit Kaur Mendhir, who is the founder of the animal rights group, Noah’s Ark Ipoh (NAI) and other veterinarians, had already planned a protest march, to the office of Menteri Besar, Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, to voice their objection.

She said, “We wanted to ask him why do this, when everywhere in the world, governments are neutering dogs?”

“The campaign is very barbaric. People will not only bring their dogs to the council, they may catch their neighbour’s dogs or any dog that they see,” she said.

Dr Ranjit also sought the help of state executive councillor Rusnah Kassim, to put a stop to this cruel act. 

At the same time, Ricky Soong, the president of the Ipoh Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA), solicited the help of state executive councillor Dr Mah Hang Soon, to speak to the Tanjung Malim council.

In the end, the combined efforts of these individuals and organisations successfully convinced the Tanjung Malim Council to halt their barbaric practice.

Nevertheless, the problem of stray dogs must be tackled, because stray dogs in the community can and do present a problem to its residents. Education, and not eradication, is the key.

The common fears should be addressed. People are afraid of the spread of disease by dogs, which often scavenge for food in rubbish bins and tips. They are unable to bear the noisy barking and howling of dogs, the sight of dogs mating, the presence of dog faeces and the strong smell of dog urine, especially from dogs that are not neutered or spayed.

People are afraid that their children may be attacked or bitten by stray dogs, as they walk to school or play in the playground.

As an alternative to killing, Dr Ranjit has suggested that private veterinarians assist the council in a Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM) plan. She has also said that they would attempt to attract funding and sponsorship from private companies.

Soong said that dealing with strays, by killing them, was a cruel solution and that councils probably adopted this cheaper route, as it could cost between RM100 and RM150, to spay or neuter each dog.

In some countries, it is compulsory for anyone who wants to keep a dog, to have it spayed or neutered. Those who wish to breed dogs, need to apply for a licence. Both these measures help to reduce the stray dog problem.

People who are keen, to keep dogs as pets, should attempt to adopt dogs from a dog pound or animal shelter, and possibly adopt older or injured dogs, instead of getting a pure breed or pedigree. Charity begins at home. What could be better than giving a home to a stray dog and giving him a better quality of life, for a few years?

Education is the best policy. We must educate our local councils and more importantly, the people.

If you want to keep a pet, then you must learn to be responsible for its well-being and health. Stories of people who will show off their wealth, by putting their pedigree dogs in tiny cages, in the front of their homes, so they can be seen by visitors, are common. Tales of people who have found the responsibility, and expense of keeping a dog, to be too great, and have therefore, released the dog in a quiet lane or back street, are also common. Dog owners must also secure their premises so that dogs cannot escape easily.

A dog is for life. Not just for Christmas, New Year, any other festival or birthday. A dog is not a toy to be paraded around. Look after your dog, and it will grow to become your best companion.