By Mariam Mokhtar

It is a sad end to the Year of the Dog...

Ipohites have had their fair share of their pet dogs being attacked by cruel people. In some cases, their pets have been targeted by the council's dog catchers, who may or may not realise that the dogs they have rounded up are properly licensed.

On the other hand, many people claim that they are afraid to venture from their homes, and walk on the lanes, because they fear being bitten by dogs. Not all the dogs they encounter are strays. Some are badly trained dogs, which have managed to escape their enclosures and their handlers.

On Thursday, January 3, six dogs, including four puppies, were found dead in their owner's compound, in Puchong, Selangor. They were believed to have been poisoned, and the case is currently being investigated by the veterinary department.

The dogs' owner, Alex Chandran, said that his sister had suspected something was wrong when she noticed that one of the dogs was behaving strangely. She gave the dog some water, before she left home, to collect her children from school. At the time, she did not realise that the problem warranted more serious action.

On her return, she noticed another dog showing similar behaviour and informed the dogs' owner.

Alex rushed home, when he heard about the dogs in a weakened state, and they were not their normal selves. When he arrived, he witnessed all six dogs dying, one by one.

The female dogs were four years old, and the puppies were two months old. On further inspection of his property, he found traces of food waste that he did not recognise. He claimed that the food was not what he normally fed to his dogs.

The dogs and the remnants of the suspected food were taken away for post mortem, and analysis, after he lodged a report with the Veterinary Services Department (VSD). The VSD has also lodged a report with the police.

A few days later, a Seremban resident of Taman Lavendar Heights, lodged a police report about his missing dog, which he had found dead in a back lane of the housing area. He had put one of his five dogs in the care of a friend, but one dog went missing and was later found dead. The man claimed that he had found another two dead dogs nearby.

The police are currently investigating the suspected poisoning of these dogs.

Is a serial dog poisoner at work, in Seremban? Or, did the dogs eat some rat poison meant to kill vermin? Were the dogs fed with infected meat?

The reaction from the public has been mixed.

Some people said that they wonder if the poisoning, (if it was proved that the dogs were poisoned), was because a neighbour was unable to get the cooperation of the dog owner to quieten his dogs, or clean the area.

Living beside several captive dogs can be nauseating, if proper care is not practised. People complain about the smell of dog faeces and urine, not to mention the incessant barking and, as in one case in a terrace house in Kedah, an infestation of dog ticks.

Others wonder if the dogs had escaped the confines of the property and become hostile towards other people. People who are not used to an over-friendly dog may assume that a dog, which comes too close is about to attack.

There are also complaints about dog owners who do not clean-up after their pets, when they take them for a walk, along public lanes or parks. In some western countries, there are severe penalties, and fines of several hundred ringgit, if dog owners do not collect their dog poo and dispose of it in a suitable manner.

Another common complaint is that some people like to show off their wealth, by owning a pedigree dog, which they keep in a tiny cage at the entrance of their home, so others may marvel at their wealth. This is cruel and inhumane. Is it any wonder, that some dogs, are crippled and show disturbing behavioural traits when they are allowed out of their cage?

Some people also think that it is fashionable to give dogs (or other animals) as presents, at Christmas or a birthday. The new owner soon realises that looking after pets may be too expensive or time-consuming. Veterinary fees and medicine are not cheap. Perhaps, the owners simply tire of the responsibility of taking care of their pets, and like the pedigree dog owner, they simply abandon the dog along a back lane, somewhere.

In most cases, the dogs are not neutered, so they breed and packs of feral dogs may terrorise the community.

There are many responsible dog owners, but as in many other things, there are also many people who do not care.

Don't blame the dogs. Blame the dog owners. No dog deserves to die a violent death or be poisoned. Perhaps, it is time that laws on dog and pet ownership are tightened.