For many of us, pets are almost synonymous with family, and it’s not uncommon to have friends sharing photos of their cat or dog on Instagram or memorials when their pet has gone to that Great Bag of Treats in the Sky.While losing your pet to old age or disease is an unavoidably painful experience, the process of finding closure becomes a lot more difficult when the death came unexpectedly and unnaturally.
For Cynn Ying and her family, the sudden appearance of 5 strangers outside their house led to loss of her dog Mumu, Mumu’s 6 puppies, and a lot of unanswered questions which she shared with us over a call and a media statement.
It started with an anti-rabies operation
It was an ordinary Friday morning on July 18th. Cynn Ying and her father were at work, her mom was out running errands, and her 17-year old brother was home alone. Suddenly, there was a knocking at the door and her brother saw 5 men outside – one holding some sort of firearm – asking to be let into the house. Being alone in the house, he refused, and the men stayed outside. A few minutes later, her mother got home.
“When my mother opened the gate to drive the car in, the men dashed in without our permission. My mother was shocked … They shouted that they shot our dog and now want to remove the dog from our compound. No warrant was shown.“
It turns out that the men were from the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), working with the Kota Samarahan Municipal Council (MPKS) on an anti-rabies operation in the area. It’s likely that the firearm they had was a tranquilizer gun, which they stored back in their truck after gaining access into the house. Cynn Ying isn’t sure what exactly happened, but she thinks Mumu might have gotten out through a gap in the gate, and ran back to the house after she was shot.
“I think they were passing by and saw my dog. I don’t think [it was because] anyone complained since other house dogs were also being caught, not only mine.”
Cynn Ying’s mom found Mumu alive but unable to move, with Mumu’s 8 puppies that she’d given birth to just a month earlier. This was when Mr. Chia, the DVS Chief Enforcement Officer, informed her that they were taking the dogs.
But they didn’t take ALL the dogs
Despite Cynn Ying’s mom explaining that Mumu wasn’t a stray, the DVS officers refused to leave until they could take the dogs. And while the DVS officers didn’t ask for any proof, they asked if the dogs were vaccinated – but she didn’t know and was too shocked by everything that was happening to call for help.
This was unfortunate because Mumu was actually vaccinated.
However what’s strange is that the DVS officers included the month-old puppies because the minimum age for vaccinations is 6 weeks, and at least 12 weeks for Rabies shots. Stranger still, she was told that she could keep the dogs if they were paid RM2,500.
“They said because they already shot the dog they’ll need to take it away. If we don’t let them take her, then we need to pay RM2,500. If we don’t do either then they can take us to court, which will cost about RM5,000. My mom didn’t know what to do. She thought they had the authority to do this.”
In the end, they carried Mumu and the puppies into the back of a MPKS Hilux and left.
But perhaps the strangest of all, they took only 6 of the 8 puppies. We were wondering if they missed them out (like maybe the puppies were hiding) but it wasn’t the case… it looked like they did it out of ‘kindness’.
“We also don’t understand [why they did that]. They told my mom they would leave 2 for us. But why do that, I don’t know.”
They thought they had 48 hours to get Mumu and the puppies back
Under Sarawak’s by-laws, owners who’ve had their dogs taken away are given up to 48 hours to get their dogs back:
Not wanting to take that chance, Cynn Ying and her family went to the DVS office on the day itself to get their dogs back… and found that there was no one on duty. Eventually, they got Mr. Chia’s phone number but, because their calls were left unanswered, decided to make a police report.
Eventually, they got through to Mr. Chia later in the day, only to be told that Mumu and the puppies were dead.
At this point, it isn’t certain if Mumu died from her injuries or if the dogs were put to sleep; adding to the list of many unanswered questions the family had to deal with. But just as the family was beginning to come to terms with the sudden loss…
“On Monday the DVS person came to our house again and gave us a compound summons. He said it’s because our dog ran out of the house. I don’t know why he gave us this. Our dog already died.”
But the DVS has a different version of events
There are always two sides to a story and, up till this point, you’ve been seeing it from the perspective of Mumu’s owners. What you may not know is that Sarawak has been in the middle of a Rabies disaster since 2017 – where the situation is so serious that it was declared an official disaster and has a Wikipedia page entry dedicated to it. So it’s also understandable that, after losing 31 human lives, the local state government has taken a pretty hard stance on managing stray dogs as well as urging owners to vaccinate their pets.
The Borneo Post contacted the DVS after the incident with Mumu; and State DVS director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud said that the laws on controlling the spread of Rabies allow them to take action against the owners of unvaccinated dogs, especially if they’re in gazetted Rabies infection areas. Specifically in the case of Mumu:
“The mother dog was not vaccinated, together with the six two-month-old puppies and this is an offence.” – Dr Adrian Susin Ambud, as quoted by The Borneo Post
He also added that 2 of the puppies were “returned to the owner after they made an appeal,” and that the 48 hour holding period was only for Rabies-free areas:
“As Kuching is an infected area therefore 48 hours requirement did not apply. Due to the (existing) MCO our operation is more on targeted removal” – Dr Adrian Susin Ambud, as quoted by The Borneo Post
So now there seems to be a number of discrepancies – first with Mumu’s vaccination status, second with the age of the puppies, and third would be whether or not the family were told that the dogs would be put to sleep immediately. Either way, the DVS also lodged a police report regarding false information being shared in a social media video. While it wasn’t specified, it’s likely referring to this Instagram post, which contains a video of the incident as well as allegations that we won’t be stating here.
The family doesn’t only want justice. They want answers.
After reading what happened, you might be questioning if Mumu had a license – and the answer to that is no. And to a certain degree, the family could have taken additional precautions to ensure that their pets don’t escape the compound, regardless of how docile they might be. However, whether or not those two factors should lead to a dog and 6 puppies dying depends on where you stand on the issue, because the most straightforward counterpoint is:
“Pet owners should be more responsible.”
At the same time though, Cynn Ying’s family put forward questions that are worth considering, such as:
- Was there a need to brandish a weapon while the DVS officers were outside the house (even though they stored it away when speaking to the mother)?
- Did the officers overstep their boundaries by entering the house without a warrant?
- Was justifiable to enter the house at the height of a pandemic, and the MCO?
Because their questions to DVS and MPKS have gone unanswered, the family has engaged a lawyer to take the case to court. Beyond justice for Mumu, the family wants to prevent others from experiencing the confusion and trauma of losing a pet in this way.
“We want a declaration of the parameters of the bylaws properly defined. We want a SOP declaration for future reference to protect fellow citizens.”
In the meantime, there’s an ongoing petition for action to be taken against the 5 DVS officers involved. You can check that out here.