WARNING: Some of these photos/videos may be graphic.
Animal rights issues continue to come to the fore as we make steps forward but also plenty backwards. The recent fiasco over the “I Want to Touch a Dog” showed how some Malaysians may be ready to embrace (both literally and figuratively) their canine companions but some others are not for religious reasons. As of this morning, The Star reported that The National Fatwa Council Muzakarah declared “touching and holding dogs is against mainstream Islamic doctrines in this country, which follows the Imam Shafie school of thought.” Whilst we won’t get into the veracity of arguments for or against the event on religious grounds; all we can hope for is that no matter your religion – cruelty to animals should never be condoned.
But the sad truth is, if our news sites are anything to go by; there seems to be few who are unluckier in life than animals born/brought to Malaysia. From horrific tales of impaled dogs to poisoning elephants and wildlife poaching – there’s little doubt that if you are a believer in reincarnation, you’d best pray your next life isn’t one as an animal in Malaysia. These are some of the things that could happen to you if you did.
1) You might be neglected and tortured
On the lowest of the spectrum of horrible things that could happen to you is neglect. At this level; you’ll consider yourself lucky and may celebrate with a shared plate of RM0.50 worth of spoiled food scraps. Because superficiality extends beyond the choosing of girlfriends and boyfriends – having a pet for some also means you only keep them if they’re young and cute. After which you will either toss them into animal shelters like PAWS and the SPCA or worse; simply neglect them (unattractive partners will then be forced to adopt these animals or risk being foreveralone).
According to SPCA’s 2013 annual report; nearly 4,000 animals were surrendered to them in the year 2013 alone. And those were the ‘lucky ones’ (re: the slightly younger; cuter ones). They stood a chance at being rehomed. Even if it was just a 50% chance (the rough percentage of the surrendered animals that were rehomed in 2013). Some are not so lucky.
In 2010, a blog was created to remember Sheena, the dog neglected who eventually starved to death. Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better’s Facebook page continuously highlights cases of neglect they come across, but these are just the few we know about. But even if your owner loves you – there’ll be someone else waiting to mistreat you. The Petknode debacle of 2012 is one such instance. This ‘pet hotel’ opened to care for your pets while owners were away during Raya, took in over 30 cats and locked them up without food or water for the duration of the holidays. For this ‘benefit’, they charged owners RM3.95 a night.
Seems like you can’t win? It gets worse. For Brianna, the dog shot with arrows for ‘appearing’ like a threat to a resident in Balakong; her case was a double whammy. Not only was she neglected by her owners (who left her to her own devices despite the fact that was old, blind and suffering from severe tick fever) but she was then attacked with arrows just for, well, being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Brianna eventually died of tick fever but it can be logically assumed that being shot with arrows didn’t help an already old and sick dog!
Another cruel case that would make Brianna’s look mild; is the unlucky dog at the Kepong KTM station. In a letter to Malaysiakini, a witness described the scene that will forever be heartbreakingly etched in the memories of animal lovers. “Then, we noticed a dog being tied to the grill (steel fence) of the KTM station. As we approached the dog, we stood aghast at the sight. The stray dog’s leg and neck was tied very tightly to the grill and a piece of wood had been shoved down inside its throat! The dog was bleeding and its feces were all around it. The string was attached to a pole in the KTM station.”
When questioned, KTM officials blamed Kuala Lumpur City Hall workers. For real or just an act of finger pointing? We’ll never know but we have our guesses. The Star did a report in 2011 and 2013 on how cruelly dogs and other animals are treated. But how much closer are we to solving the problem?
2) You might be exploited for money
If there is some way to make money from animals, that will be done too. Breeders have found that many people will pay big bucks for pure bred little cuties (dogs and cats usually). Whilst an animal having offspring which is in turn sold doesn’t really equate cruelty – the problem arises when an animal is continuously kept pregnant and in appalling conditions. Puppy Mills and illegal ‘backyard’ dealers breeding those cute, little shih tzus and toy poodles for profit isn’t necessarily treating the parent animals (nor the offspring for that matter) in any way that can be deemed right.
A report in the Star in 2012 highlighted a case where a puppy died just a few days after being purchased. The illness it had was then traced back to the unhealthy conditions the animals endure at the mills until they are sold. Cute puppies are mercifully spared longer durations under these conditions as they are sold relatively quickly. The mother and father canines are not so lucky. Many die much earlier due to continuous breeding or are discarded when they are no longer able to produce offspring. Puspa Rani of the Malaysian Independent Animal Rescue team shared the story of a Pekingnese discarded after she was no longer of any use to the breeder.
Breeding isn’t the only animals are used for profit. The A’ Famosa Resort came under fire this year for allowing paid elephant rides. What’s the harm in rides? Apparently, under the conditions within which the elephant is forced to perform: a lot. In an FMT report, Malaysian Friends of the Animals (MFOTA) member Jason Tan said the zoo at the A’Famosa was making elephants take part in carnival shows and rides every night. “The noise, confusion and crowd at the carnival shows and rides are sheer torture to these elephants,” he said in a letter to FMT.
Finally, as with many other animals; you could be sold as food.
3) You might be murdered… in the most torturous way possible
Think you will just be murdered as an animal here? You should be so lucky! We’re avid lovers of crime dramas and some of the brutal animal murders seem to take their cue from glorified CSI and Criminal Minds ‘unsubs’. The Star Report highlighting the country’s worst animal abuses in Malaysia for 2013 told the story of the sickening way strays were killed by Kajang Municipal Council dogcatchers. The Council denied wrongdoing but the graphic video on YouTube spoke louder than mere denials.
Although, dogs do receive the brunt of cruelty in the country; they aren’t the only ones being murdered senselessly. Whilst cat pictures on the internet are all the rage; not everyone seems to feel the love for cuddly felines. In 2011, the dubbed ‘Kitten Killer of Serdang’ made headlines for beating, kicking and stomping on some kittens. In the press conference at the SPCA regarding her horrible act of animal killing sport; the perpetrator claimed to be suffering from depression due to her parents’ separation.
From domestic, tiny creatures to the gentle giants of the forest; we apparently kill them all. In 2013, 16 pygmy elephants were found dead in Sabah at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve. They were allegedly killed by plantation workers but no one has been brought to justice. The elephants died after consuming toxic food. “Postmortems showed they suffered severe haemorrhages and ulcers in their gastrointestinal tracts.” Some of these stories are a little in the past but perhaps this one is still fresh in your minds. The heartbreaking report of the poisoning of ten dogs in a Bukit Bintang carpark left a lot of animal lovers and basically decent human beings reeling. For five years the dogs made the carpark their home and had harmed no one. Frequent users of the carpark and volunteers spoke fondly of feeding the dogs and even feeling safe having them around. As reported by the Malay Mail:
A frequent user of the car park, Selvi Chelliah, 46, said the dogs made her feel secure because they would follow her to her car when she finished work late. “They would follow me to my car, then just sit there until I leave,” she said. “I was saddened when I heard they had died. It was cruel to have them killed like this.”
It’s obvious the streets of KL are not only less secure without these caring ‘guard dogs’ – we also seem to have a heartless poisoner on the loose.
We’re guessing they get their ‘inspiration’ from medieval torture wardens.
4) And then you’d probably be disrespected in death
So you’re finally dead. Skewered, burnt, starved and finally old lady luck smiled on you and ended your miserable life. Think that’s the end of it? Hell, no. At least not if you are of a ‘select few species’: those in some way linked to an organised religion. Because then your carcass becomes a useful ‘tool’ to hurl insults at people who profess the faith. Unable to resort to mere name-calling, brickbat hurling or even physical combat; some Malaysians choose to cut the heads of particular animals and use these gory items to insult someone of a particular faith. Take the bizarre ‘Cow Head Protests’ of 2009 where Muslim protestors used a severed cow’s head to protest the relocation of a Hindu temple in what they believed to be a primarily Muslim suburb.
You can check out the video here.
The incident was not the last as again in 2014, a cow head was thrown at the gate of DAP Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer’s home. Perhaps some disgruntled butcher was annoyed at how he couldn’t sell cow heads as meat and decided on this more ‘creative’ use of it but we’re not holding our breath with that explanation. Of course, if there was a cow head in this point, you know there’s going to be a pig head too. We mean an actual pig head and err… not a particularly dense person, although the perpetrators of these tasteless displays could probably be described as such. One of the more ‘famous’ pig head stories was the one found outside a Sentul and Rawang Mosque in 2012. Batu MP Chua Tian Chang called the act a “politically motivated provocation” calculated to create tension among Muslims and non-Muslims. If you like to consume suckling pig head at non-halal dinners, this blatant waste of ingredient might anger you thoroughly.
Well, that’s not nice…
Right. it isn’t. It doesn’t help either that the lackadaisical attitude taken by enforcement coupled with puny animal abuse laws make high school caning and punishment appear like ‘hard time’. The Animal Act 1953 only allows fines of up to RM200 and/or six months’ jail, and is currently all we have to work with. Although, the new Animal Welfare Bill seeks to up the ante (the bill, tabled in 2013, first time offenders can ‘look forward’ to fines of up to RM100,000 and jail time for up to 3 years); the Act was supposed to be in force by 2014 but to date; mum’s the word. But there is something each of us can do.
Great, what can we do?
Whilst you don’t have to run out and adopt a homeless animal (although it would be super great if you did!); every little effort helps. Here are some things you can do to help:
1) Adopt a pet instead of buying one. If you already plan to own a pet; give a home to a homeless animal. Not only is this friendlier on your wallet; it’s giving a shelter animal a new lease on life. Head to your nearest shelter or check out the thousands of cute puppies and kitties on Petfinder. The less demand there is for those perfectly bred little critters; the less incentive there will be for unscrupulous puppy farms to go on doing business.
2) Donate money or supplies to shelters. You can always donate money or supplies to awesome animal charities like SPCA, PAWS, MIAR and MDDB and show them that Malaysians support the work they do. All centres accept donations in cash or kind (pet food, pet grooming essentials, etc). Although, the respective websites will list the kind of items they accept for donation; it’ll be even better to give them a call to find out if there is anything they are particularly lacking at the moment. Of course, the easiest way is to just give cash. This can be used not just to provide supplies but also to cover shelter overheads and neutering costs.
3) Neuter/spay your pets. As a rule; shelters will neuter/spay animals that you adopt from them but if you’ve picked up a kitten from a friend’s cat’s new litter or from Petfinder – do make an effort to neuter/spay your pet before bringing them home. This helps reduce the possibility of more strays or homeless animals. Alternatively, you can also support TNRM – an animal charity specifically dedicated to controlling the stray animal population via neutering/spaying and then rehoming. The less strays there are on the streets – the less chance there is for them to suffer needlessly.
4) Volunteer at shelters. Shelters often need volunteers to help clean the animal compounds; walk dogs; bathe the animals and to help with a host of other chores. If you aren’t able to give a donation – giving of your time will go a long way. And the win for you is you get to play with seriously cute and cuddly animals!
5) Support animal friendly businesses and initiatives. Pet lovers are increasingly coming to the fore and there are now unique ways you can show your support. The cat cafe and rabbit restaurant are businesses run by animal loving people where stray animals are given a new lease on life by being part of the awesome new makan place concept. If you’re worried that these animals are being used for profit – fear not; it’s easy to see how well the animals are kept and their needs taken care of. Unlike many other animal related attractions – these eateries do not force the animals to interact if they don’t want to and precautions taken (like warnings and sanitary requirements before playing with the animals) to ensure the visitors don’t harm the animals. But if you’re ever in doubt about the ethics of a business featuring animals – always take a good look at the animals.
Do they appear well fed; happy and healthy? Usually; these are the best indicators. Besides that, initiatives include events where our furkids get to walk amongst us for a good cause such as the I want to touch a dog campaign by Syed Azmi Alhabshi. Although, the event drew the ire of many Muslims in the country for religious reasons – you can always participate in a similar event for another animal or just for animals in general.
6) Report animal abuse when you see it. Closing a blind eye to animal abuse only allows it to perpetuate. If you see someone abusing an animal or an animal in distress – do contact one of the pet shelters or animal groups.
Every little bit helps and trust us when we say the payout of a grateful furry friend is beyond amazing. Help us by doing even just a little bit to help the cause. Because let’s face it – being nice to animals is pretty hot.