Nobody’s child: Strays in Malaysia — JN Ismail

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Pet taxi operator Juvena Chan said she started feeding stray dogs after she was asked by a friend to help out. ― Picture by Farhan Najib
Pet taxi operator Juvena Chan said she started feeding stray dogs after she was asked by a friend to help out. ― Picture by Farhan Najib

JUNE 7 — The survival of strays is singularly grim, illustrated by strings of quandary. Imagine being voiceless, hungry and shooed away with stones or kicks. Unfortunately, this is the plight for most of the strays in Malaysia.

From being burnt with acid, to being fed with rat poison to being tossed from roof to being shot at with arrows, they are subjected to cruelty and torture almost every day. This ongoing brutality must be put to an end.

They rifle through rubbish because that is their only meal ticket. They reproduce, that is biology. They bark and meow, that is their elocution. They exist, they did not choose to.

It is often ignored, that they also have a place in the ecological equilibrium and the natural order, and their lives matter like all lives do. Their subsistence has a signification and purposefulness.

Unfortunately, matters become convoluted when they are being deprived of safe existence on the streets and are treated with dogmatism, animosity, unwarranted fears, discrimination, apathy and cruelty.

Stray cats and stray dogs dwell virtually wherever conurbations exist and whenever human communities exist because they mainly feed on human produced waste and garbage. They are among scavengers, serving as what is known as cleaning agents or bio-bins as they maintain the environment clean.

The conundrum is that in Malaysia, they are ostracised and expelled from the very communities they need to attach themselves to. I can say that the strays in Malaysia are surviving in a very harrowing condition. Most of them live in a dejected state and most of them do not die a natural death.

But in Turkey, the country has a “no kill, no capture” law towards all of its stray animals, including the 300 000 or so dogs and cats that roam the streets of Istanbul. Turkish cities run trap, tag and release programmes, wherein the strays are captured, vaccinated, neutered or spayed and released back where they were found.

Plus, the Turkish government, as reported by BBC (9 April 2020),instructed its local councils to feed the country’s hundreds of thousands of street animals during the coronavirus lockdown as the animals have been receiving less food as they are typically fed by local residents.

Its Interior Ministry ordered the local councils to “bring food and water to animal shelters, parks, gardens, and other areas where animals are found”. The ministry insisted “all necessary measures must be taken to ensure stray animals don’t go hungry”. And Ankara’s Environment and Urbanization Minister, tweeted to urge citizens to leave food and water for stray animals. In a message on World Street Animals Day, he said: “In these difficult days, we are not forgetting our friends and leaving food and water in front of our homes.”

Therefore it can be deduced that the issues circumnavigating the strays in Malaysia can be better dealt with if we engage ourselves to the service of the animals.

Nonetheless, the deficiency in effective partaking and like-minded people who would not be fearful to take that additional step for the right cause appears to be a stumbling block.

Our inattentiveness in the plight of strays albeit such an atrocious setting demonstrates that our cognisance has not evolved yet.

On that account, it is compulsory to have continuous dialogues with the policy makers for mandatory spay-neuter regulations and educating the public on the five welfare needs of animals.

It is important for the policy makers and individuals in authority to be practical and to respond to the urgent needs of the animal welfare people who are after all at the forefront in the fight in favour of animal well-being.

We need to cultivate compassion which can be brought forth through empathy; putting ourselves in their position and try to imagine their ill-fated existence.

When I was travelling in Hyderabad, back in 2010, on various occasions I witnessed street animals, let it be a cat or a dog, being taken care of by homeless people.

And I thought to myself, may we all be tinged by the madness of compassion.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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