Council officers lack awareness on animal cruelty, says independent rescuer

According to Malaysian Animal Welfare Association (MAWA) founder Mukunnan Sugumaran, the trap, neuter and release (TNR) method of addressing strays is still not endorsed nationwide. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
According to Malaysian Animal Welfare Association (MAWA) founder Mukunnan Sugumaran, the trap, neuter and release (TNR) method of addressing strays is still not endorsed nationwide. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — Malaysian Animal Welfare Association (MAWA) founder Mukunnan Sugumaran has questioned authorities’ lack of interest in humane solutions to the country’s stray animal problem.

According to Mukunnan, the trap, neuter and release (TNR) method of addressing strays is still not endorsed nationwide, resulting in situations like what happened at the National Museum, where stray cats already de-sexed to prevent further breeding still remain in danger of being sent to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) animal pound. 

TNR is a method that animal activists employ to humanely control stray animal populations without resorting to euthanasia, but because most captures are still released, some local authorities consider them to still be strays.

“Why this has happened is because the practice of trap, neuter and release is still not endorsed by most local councils and state governments.

“The only city council I know that is practising this is the Penang Island City Council. This, however, excludes Seberang Perai City Council as they do not practise the TNR method,” Mukunnan told Malay Mail when contacted.

The animal rescue activist was responding to a recent post on social media that went viral.

The Twitter post by the handle Yang BroHormat appealed to the public to help adopt stray cats which are currently located at the National Museum by Friday; otherwise, they risk being sent to the DBKL animal pound.

This appeal was made after DBKL officers caught three stray cats in the museum compound last week, which led to a volunteer urgently looking for adopters for the existing stray cats she had cared for.

“Because TNR is not endorsed nationwide, people (including the authorities or local councils) still view these strays as a problem.

“But even if the TNR is endorsed, it is still not made a law that people need to follow... stray animals especially dogs and cats still risk being sent to the council pound.

“The council officers have the right to catch these strays regardless of whether they are neutered or cleaned,” he said.

Mukunnan gave an example of the rabies breakout in Penang two years ago, and if it were to happen again, stray dogs and cats will be caught and culled to contain the spreading of the disease — disregarding the TNR practice.

“As long as there are no laws set in place saying that neutered and cleaned strays should not be killed, they will be caught and euthanised by the authorities,” he said.

Explaining further, Mukunnan said one of the reasons why euthanasia is carried out is to make more space at the pound for new catches. 

“Otherwise, they don’t have space for these animals,” he said.

At MAWA, Mukunnan said they do not practise euthanasia.

“We don’t put our dogs to sleep. But that is why the compound I have is limited to 200 dogs.

“And if they are not adopted, I can’t go out and rescue more. I also don’t have space for cats. 

“That is why I am constantly raising funds and have been proposing to work with local councils on a long-term solution for stray dogs and cats,” he said.

He added that because society is still unable to accept the practice of TNR, this has subjected many strays to abuse, accidents and recently reported cases of consumption.

“If you remember the case in Elmina (Shah Alam) these strays prior to being eaten as food, they were beaten half to death.

“While the law allows for man to kill an animal for food, prior to eating the meat, the animal was abused (beating),” he said.

It was reported in 2018 that a stray dog was brutally killed for its meat.

The act was reportedly caught on camera by two witnesses who were out feeding strays near Persiaran Elmina when they saw the incident.

All this led animal rights activists to propose to the government that a space be allocated in each local council district for animal rights associations to place the strays and eventually put them up for adoption.

However, he said, the government does not seem to be interested in solving problems pertaining to stray dogs and cats.

“When I went to the Kajang Municipal Council, they told me to round up the animals and send them to the council’s pound instead, which will eventually lead to euthanasia. They just want the strays to be put away.

“When I sent my proposal to the Local Government and Housing Ministry, they too ignored me,” he said, adding that he sent the proposal last May.

He also stressed that there is much to be done, as awareness of such acts being punishable is still lacking among Malaysians.

“Because of the lack of awareness, animal cruelty continues,” he added.

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