Remembering Sheena

Stop Animal Abuse in Malaysia.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Animals have rights too

From a Column published in Malaysia Kini
By Jeswan Kaur, April 19, 2010


Five years ago, when a German Shepherd by the name of Sheena was abandoned by her irresponsible owner, the dog died a painful death, due to starvation which led to the failure of her internal organs. The owner claimed he was busy moving house and was obvious he wanted to get rid of this faithful guard dog in the easiest way possible.

Sheena's abuse and subsequent death caused an outcry among animal lovers who were all willing to punish the owner themselves if they could. And their disgust at the way Sheena's engineer owner left his pet dog of seven years to die never ceased all because the owner , Lien Chong San of USJ 17, Subang Jaya received nothing short of a slap on the wrist from the law - Lien was fined a pathetic RM100 in default of two days' jail. He was charged under Section 44 (1) (d) of the Animal Ordinance 1953, which carried a maximum fine of RM200 or a maximum six months jail or both.

Instead of taking responsibility for her well being, Lien took the easy way out and let Sheena die a painful death, leaving her with no water to drink or food to eat when he moved house. Could he not make any arrangement to have the dog adopted? Did Lien not know of the existence of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) or the Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) which could have helped him find Sheena a new owner?

What was and is still revolting is to note the zero value and respect the law places on animals. The Animal Act Ordinance 1953 itself has little sympathy for animals, looking at its absurd penalty of a maximum fine of RM200 or a jail term of six months. The Animal Ordinance came under fire after animal lover Sabrina Yeop, formerly of SPCA Selangor, revealed her frustrations at the light sentences imposed on animal abusers. Together with a SPCA volunteer Dawn Peacock, Yeop drafted the SPCA petition to amend the Animal Ordinance 1953.

Since 1953 only two or three abusers received jail sentences and that too which were never more than two days. Fifty two years later and the situation remained unchanged when Sheena's heartless owner was only slapped a RM100 fine.

The government passed the new Animal Act 2006 but typically the Act was a cosmetic attempt by the government to claim its concern over the issue of animal abuse. Sadly, not a single provision of the Animal Ordinance 1953 was changed. Why? Have the law makers no heart, forgetting how a lovable Sheena met her death?

Animal rights non-existent in Malaysia

It was reported that a recent incident in Johor Baru saw five men armed with sticks attacking several harmless stray cats and dogs that were under the care of the Johor Baru Humane Touch Animal Welfare Society in Taman Delima.

In 2005 The Star reported an abuse case by a cat breeder. The breeder was charged in court for neglecting the cats he used for breeding by forcing them to lie in small cages alongside their own feces, resulting in an unbearable stench.

If the animal abuse is not heartbreaking enough, the indifferent attitude of the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) has worsened matters. The public has often complained that they received no response from the department each time they reported an abuse. In Sheena's case, the newspapers reported that the neighbour telephoned DVS three times and yet the department did nothing.

Now, why the lackadaisical attitude in rescuing abused animals? Has religion anything to do with saving dogs i.e. dogs are an issue the DVS has no interest in? Until and unless religion is used to discriminate animals, Malaysia's dogs and cats have little hope in being saved.

It is baffling to understand why the government has little interest in creating stiffer penalty for animal abusers. Animals will be given no respect by their owners if the law provides negligible punishment. There are times that the court returns the abused animals to the abusers even after a guilty verdict is pronounced. This show of no pity for animals gives out a message to society that it is alright to harm or abuse animals.

More recently, online news site Malaysiakini on March 17 carried a letter from a reader by the name of M Nisha who wrote about the ghastly animal abuse at the Kepong Central KTM station. The incident took place on March 15 at 3pm. The writer heard a dog howling in a painful cry and she saw the canine being tied to the grille of the station (right). The dog's leg and neck were tied very tightly to the grille and a piece of wood had been shoved down its throat! The dog was bleeding and surrounded by its feces.

When the writer confronted the KTM workers they said the culprits were the Kuala Lumpur City Hall workers because a minister would be visiting the station the following week.

Malaysian style, use people, abuse animals

It is deplorable to learn that just to facilitate a minister's visit, City Hall workers will go to any length to make an impression. It seems they have no qualms murdering dogs or cats just to cover their otherwise questionable performances. Everyone knows just how "efficient" the City Hall workers are. But to abuse a dog or cat is sickening and even more pathetic is the fact that the minister in question cared two hoots about animals rights to take the workers involved to task.

Current prime minister Najib Abdul Razak (left) has no time for animals because they are in no position to give him their votes, hence they are useless to him. That's why as a shrewd politician he devised the claim 'rakyat didahulukan pencapaian diutamakan'. He has made no mention of animal care ever since taking over leadership of Malaysia.

In fact none of the country's prime ministers' can be remembered for having had any pets. Their inability to reach out to animals is reflected in the shameful penalty in the Animal Ordinance 1953 and now Animal Act 2006.

If any of the politicians or leaders had any love for animals, they would have been aghast at the way Sheena was abused and the hopeless punishment given to her owner. But as animals have no voice, they cannot cry out against the abuse they suffer, so there is no need for the politicians or the government to worry about in being accused of not doing their job.

I throw Najib a challenge - do whatever it takes to reflect love, compassion and respect for animals by everyone irrespective of their position or status. Amend the toothless Animal Act 2006. Be the pet owners or local council workers, none must be spared. No more abuse of animals to please VIPs or get into their good books. Also, do not spare local council workers who are merciless in dealing with stray cats and dogs.

End cruelty towards animals

If countries like India, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Hong Kong can display affection towards animal through stiffer penalties against animal abusers, what is stopping Malaysia?

India is leading in increasing number of convictions for animal abuse with stiff penalties. One court in India stopped the bullock cart race held during temple festivals because the cows are beaten with sticks to make them move faster.

While UAE's laws not only protect domestic pets but also stray animals. Abuse of an animal is punishable with imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of not more than RM10,000 or both.

A few years ago, Hong Kong passed The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill 2006 to impose stiffer penalties for animal cruelty. The fine was raised from US$641 to US$25, 641 and a jail term of three years. The government even set up a hotline to report abuse and citizens could call the police who are given the authority to arrest animal abusers.

And what about Malaysia? The politicians here are too busy playing politics to save their backs to even spare a thought for animals, be they pets or strays.

Like in Hong Kong, a hotline to report animal abuse is needed here in Malaysia. Animal abusers must be made to do community service at animal shelters besides serving jail term, all to make them realise that animal life is just as precious as human life, if not more.

Another important move is to educate children from young to show affection towards animals and to become responsible pet owners. Set up 'love animals' clubs in primary and secondary schools and continue in colleges and universities. It is not only humans, animals too need love and lots of it.

And it is not too much to ask for a ministry to dedicate itself to deal with animal affairs, is it? If Najib could upon becoming the country's sixth prime minister, quickly visit places like Puduraya and Brickfields which are the prime areas, why has he not visited the animals shelters SPCA and PAWS. Why did he not set a precedent by adopting a cat or two and encourage his colleagues to do so? Is it very difficult to work with corporate companies and reward those who are genuine animal lovers and who adopt pets from shelters?

Obama's pet pooch

The government can help sponsor 'adopt-a-pet' to orphanages and old folks by subsidising the cost of maintaining a pet. Obviously, there is a lot that can be done to provide animals at shelters a home and family if only the government is dedicated and committed to saving animals which is not the case in Malaysia.

Having pets does wonders for one's health and Najib must set an example by giving cats at shelters a home and family. Life is not all about politics and power, it is also about sharing love with animals, be they cats or dogs and be they strays or pedigree.

Najib is beaming from ear to ear having been given an opportunity to hold a 40-minute long bilateral talk with United States president Barack Obama (right), their first ever, ahead of the Nuclear Summit in Washington, on April 12. It is a shame that Najib made no effort to learn from Obama about caring for animals. For Najib's information, Obama wasted no time in getting a pet dog for his family upon becoming the President of the USA.

At his first Press conference, Obama was questioned by reporters on which breed the family was looking to acquire and he replied, "our preference would be to get a shelter dog but obviously a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me." The Obamas' soon became proud owners of a male Portuguese Water dog they named Bo which by the way was also neutered.

So, Najib and family, please take a cue from Obama and go to the rescue of the many adorable cats awaiting homes and families at animal shelters.

This article is dedicated to my two sons' Timor and Putra for teaching me about unconditional love and to all the animals out there who bring a touch of happiness into our lives. Thank you.

KTMB’s Odd Explanation For Dog Abuse On Its Premises

RSC's letter sent to Malaysia Kini:

I refer to M Nisha’s letter published in Malaysiakini on March 17, 2010 regarding a stray dog she and her friends found at KTMB, tied to a grille with its neck arched back and a wooden stick down its throat. Malaysia kini published the horrific photos.

The Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB) published on March 20, a statement it received from KTMB in response to Nisha’s published letter.

KTMB's letter, seems overly eager to exonerate DBKL, even groveling by saying “We hope DBKL is willing to accept our sincere apology.” The full letter may be read here:

The sad fact is how are we to believe DBKL is not at fault when DBKL and other municipal councils all over Malaysia have been accused of so many dog abuses for years now and reported in the press too.

Why should we believe this case was different? Wasn’t DBKL in the news just last February when TV3, through its programme called 360, exposed DBKL Setapak for beating stray dogs to death and drowning stray cats. What happened to the Selangor state allocation for humane euthanasia? Where did this money go if it was not being put to the use it was allocated for?

Worse, KTMB President writes in his letter that KTMB called the Selayang council to seize the dog in Nisha’s photos. The Selayang council are now in the press for allegedly leaving dogs to die of starvation and thirst in their pound -and this has been going on for years!!!

This is also the same council which offered prize money up to RM15,000 to the public for their controversial dog catching competition which it scraped after public expressed their outrage.

Another article in the Star dated April 26, 2008 reported that DBKL was going on a dog poisoning spree around Old Klang Road where an eye-witness’ pet nearly died from eating the contaminated food.

A person left a comment on to an article by Davina Goh that she was an eye-witness to dog catchers dragging a female dog forcefully by the neck “while she was still giving birth”. Are these demons born with mothers and sisters?

Wasn’t it also a municipal council that encouraged residents of Pulau Ketam to trap and dump stray dogs on watery islands?

These dogs were left to starve and die of thirst. Those that tried to escape to the nearby kelongs were promptly thrown back into the sea by workers. So desperate was their situation that some dogs began cannibalizing the weak ones while they were still alive.

A Star newspaper article dated April 9, 2009 reported that the Majlis Perbandaran Klang councilor in charge of Pulau Ketam paid the residents money to commit this heinous act.

After so much has happened over all these years, KTMB would have us believe that their staff was “sadly mistaken” when he accused DBKL of shoving the wood down a poor stray dog’s throat and tied it on its back to a grill with the wood sticking up.

Serene LEE Siew Yin wrote in her letter of complaint to the Prime Minister copied to the local councils that, “The stick that has been used to stuff into the dog's throat has also been identified as the pole normally used by council dog catchers”.

KTMB claimed their staff and not DBKL restrained the dog and it was not as horrific as Nisha claimed it to be. The dog, says the letter, bit on the wood and the staff couldn’t remove it. The photo clearly shows the end of the stick easily a good way into the dog’s throat and KTMB must think we are fools to disbelief the photo and believe them!

KTMB’s President has clearly admitted in his letter to MDDB that it is KTMB that is responsible for this despicable act upon the dog. So, why isn’t Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) taking action against KTMB? Malaysia’s Animal Act 2006 compels them to act on animal abuse reports.

Due to the failure of the municipal councils, the DVS, the failure of existing animal shelters which are no more than just dumping grounds for unwanted pets, ordinary Malaysians are forced to work in groups called independent rescuers, scouring the streets to rescue and re-home strays.

The limited resources of these people are stretched further now that they have to play advocate to fight for the rights of these animals when every establishment set up to protect them has failed.

In western countries animal shelters are more pro-active in educating the public on animal welfare issues and advocate and lobby for them before the government.

In Malaysia we only hear from animal shelters for donations or when there is a scandal big enough for public outcry reported in the newspapers.

I shudder to consider the fate of animals in Malaysia if not for organizations like MDDB and other loose bands of independent rescuers tirelessly receiving strays into their homes and hearts, feeding and caring and re-homing.

Why should all these rescuers spend their own money and time doing this? The rescuers are falling sick from the enormity of the problem, but bless their hearts, they can't turn away and struggling to cope as best they can.

What are the DVS and councils being paid for? Why are taxpayers money going to these government departments for work they are not doing?

Something is very wrong when you live in a country where such acts of cruelty is the point that the public are sickened to the pits of their stomachs...and then find out there is NO WHERE, NO ONE, NO HELP, NO RECOURSE WHATSOEVER for such crimes to be reported, punished and ensured it will not happen again. Why?

The frightening truth is the very people who are supposed to protect these animals are themselves being accused of this abuse, on the one hand, like the municipal councils, and on the other hand like the DVS and Wildlife Department taking no action against animal abuses.

Please, please register to vote if you are not yet a voter and vote for Pakatan Rakyat.