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Capture and Release for the Best

By Diana Seow Friday, 21 December, 2018

Meet Muscles, one of the big male cats on our street. We tend to visit this bruiser often as he is quick to the punch and thus often in need of assistance.Meet Muscles, one of the big male cats on our street. We tend to visit this bruiser often as he is quick to the punch and thus often in need of assistance.

Controlling the overpopulation of homeless furkids in Malaysia has always been an issue. Wherever we go, as long as it’s near residential areas, it is not difficult to spot a few furry friends wandering around on the streets. The number of strays continues to increase over time with abandonment as one of the major causes. Once in a while, we see news reporting about animal cruelty, about how strays are atrociously culled, severely harmed, or even poisoned by certain heartless people. Sometimes, even pets are forced to do a particular trick with harsh training. Little do we know, these are ‘normal’ events that happen everyday, all around the clock. I can never really put up with these types of news because of how cold-blooded some people can be. Perhaps, desperate means call for desperate measures, we are only human and when put in the worst situation, our actions can be emotionally driven. Maybe this is the reason why some people resort to severe actions when it comes to dealing with the overpopulated strays, possibly topped with their pent-up frustration from the hectic, stressful urban lifestyle. By no means am I trying to justify what they have done, but truthfully, stressed, tired people can make bad decisions in certain situations.

Unfortunately, there is not enough protection except for the Animal Act 1953 which was rather weak, for these precious lives until a few years ago, when The Animal Welfare Act 2015 was passed in Parliament. The new Act expands in a greater scope rather than replacing the previous Act. A few highlights include the new licensing system for animal-related businesses and owners, strict regulation on animal testing and harsher punishments for animal abusers as well as introducing more humane ways to curb the strays’ overpopulation. On February 2018, we witnessed two animal abusers, who dragged a dog chained to their motorcycle for 2.3km, sentenced to one week’s jail and a fine of RM7,800 after approved appeal. Though we may not see news of convictions as often as animal cruelty since some cases may not be reported to the mass, slowly but surely, justice will be served.

Department director-general of the Veterinary Services Department (DVS), Datuk Dr. Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam, says that trying to prove animal cruelty comes with a certain level of difficulty as we have to prove the cases beyond reasonable doubt. Sufficient evidence such as photos or videos is needed to build a case. Full cooperation from the public is crucial for evidence gathering and enforcement of The Animal Welfare Act. We should never just depend on the government when it comes to law enforcement since we play a major role too, as citizens. Some people may hesitate or refuse on reporting such cases in fear of their neighbour, who is also the abuser, finding out about it, despite the assurance of complainant remaining anonymous. Nonetheless, it is not always about punishing the perpetrators but rather encouraging a better attitude and keeping an open mindset towards animals in general.

Rambo was already pregnant before we took her in. Her kittens Blackie, Cougar and Gem are all spayed and along with Rambo live with us now.Rambo was already pregnant before we took her in. Her kittens Blackie, Cougar and Gem are all spayed and along with Rambo live with us now.

Instead of looking for more humane ways to ‘eliminate’ strays, there is a better way to prevent their numbers from multiplying yet not taking their lives. A simple feline can produce up to six kittens each time, twice per year. If no action is taken, the number will skyrocket and will leave such a situation with no choice but to curb the population with the use of euthanasia. For now, most of the shelters in Malaysia do not practice this as they implement a ‘no-kill’ policy where animals will not be euthanised even if they’re not adopted. This leads to another problem where the shelters run on costs that go through the roof with their tremendous amount of monthly expenses. Worse, some people tend to force the shelters to accept more strays despite the shelter being out of accommodation because they think it is more humane this way than leaving the animals to die on the streets. This will, in turn, threaten the welfare of all other animals in the shelter with decreased quality due to lack of necessary resources.

Ultimately, is there really a better way to solve this problem? Yes, and by far it is the best way to do it. The said method, which is also a non-profit, non-governmental, registered and volunteer-run society is called Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM), where dogs and cats are humanely trapped and neutered before they are released or rehomed after recovery in order to manage the stray population. For simple identification, sterilised strays’ ears are tipped on the pointed end, showing distinct appearance. Usually, the sterilised stray will be returned to the site of capture if they fail to find a forever home and a caregiver will provide regular food while monitoring them for a period of time. This will also prevent other colonies from moving into the area as the current colony established their territory. Besides keeping their population in check, these sterilised strays live longer and are less prone to certain diseases. Instead of gruel culling, TNRM gradually decreases the population of strays in a benevolent and sympathetic way. Take Turkey for example, where this approach is fully adopted in Istanbul and all furry companions live peacefully, healthily and happily amongst the citizens. It is truly beautiful to see how some countries do not neglect the welfare of animals and how their citizens come together in protecting the strays.

Humans can voice out their opinions or injustice but animals do not have such luxury. Previous laws were too weak and punishments were ridiculously light. Now that we have a better Act, we should do all we can to ensure the enforcement for the sake of our feline and canine companions. Did you know that it is against the law in Germany if you keep your dog leashed for more than four hours? This will cause them high distress, making them mentally unstable and aggressive. Animal cruelty and overpopulation of strays can only be curbed through cumulative effort from as many sides as possible, not alone. With The Animal Welfare Act 2015 in place, play your role as a citizen by informing the authorities about any cases. Animal abusers may face a fine of between RM20,000 and RM100,000, a maximum jail term of three years or both if found guilty. If you’re witnessing any form of animal torture, you can report it to the police, Department of Veterinary Services, or even non-governmental organisations such as Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Visiting the Furry Friends Farm, here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. They are doing their best to fight the good fight.Visiting the Furry Friends Farm, here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. They are doing their best to fight the good fight.

Perhaps, what we lack now are the awareness and education of discussed issues. Culling is definitely a bad idea and it will never be the solution for stray overpopulation, at least not in a humane way. How many can you kill? By the time you’re done with one, other colonies will be multiplying. I believe TNRM is the perfect answer as it is cost-effective and we would be nipping it in the bud as well. Getting to the root cause of a problem is often the best way to solve it. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), there are more than 6 millions of furry companions entering animal shelters every year. As previously mentioned, the biggest contributing factor to strays is abandonment, especially during the festive seasons where these furkids are ‘unwanted gifts’. There are also cases where some people simply lost interest in owning a pet or moving out of their homes to another place.

It is saddening, in one way or another, because these little furkids are being objectified and abandoned, when they, just like us, have feelings and emotions. Besides that, all the strays, including all the other animals in the world, deserve as much rights as us to live freely. If you’re thinking of owning a pet, think twice and thrice, because the last thing you want to do is to abandon them when they are fully entrusted to you. Though, if you’re positive, then the best way is to adopt, or even buying from a shelter rather than commercial pet shops.

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