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.


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