Sunday, June 15, 2014

No justice for Malaysian dogs

Recently two incidents of cruelty against man's best friend gained the attention of animal lovers in Malaysia. Both incidents shone a harsh spotlight on the reluctance of "the powers that be" to get tough with animal abusers.

First incident

On May 13, 2014, a man believed to be an army officer, shot two arrows at a dog spotted outside his house at Taman Sinaran, Taming Jaya.

 The dog, and old and partially blind Rottweiler was subsequently named Brianna by canine welfare project Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB) who took her in.

Brianna was rescued by Allan Chong who lived in the same neighbourhood. At the time of her rescue, she had one arrow lodged in her front leg and another in her back.

Though Brianna received the best care, she succumbed to tick fever at a veterinary clinic a few days after her rescue on May 16, 2014.

Policemen assessing Brianna's condition at a veterinary clinic in Subang Jaya. STAR PIX

The vet who treated her said she was already very sick and weak when brought in. The trauma of being abused, didn't help either.

At the time of her death, Kajang OCPD ACP Abdul Rashid Abdul Wahab said police had wrapped up investigations in the case and submitted the investigation papers to Bukit Aman. He however said it was unlikely that the man would be charged. He must have spoke true, for to date, no action has been taken against the man who abused Brianna.

 'Let her death not be in vain'

A memorial was held for Brianna at a cafe in Kelana Jaya on  May 24. The Rakyat Post pix.

Following her death, MDDB initiated a campaign - Justice For Brianna (JFB). As of May 25, according to a Star Online report, 200 signatures on hardcopy; about 100 police reports and 94,047 online petition signatures have been collected. The ongoing signature campaign ends on June 30.

MDDB intends to present a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Department, Defence Ministry and Armed Forces together with the signatures.

Will Brianna finally get justice? Will the prime minister take time off from his busy schedule to study the memorandum and at the very least tweet about it? After all he is known to be "very active" on social media.

Or will he and his designates consign it to the dust heap of memorandums deemed not worth looking at. Well the signature campaign is ongoing, so it's early days yet. 

I doubt the man who did this to Brianna will be brought to justice, nor will this put a stop to other incident of cruelty against helpless animals. But Brianna whom her rescuer described as a very sweet natured dog is unlikely to be forgotten, as such the man who arrowed her, will find it hard to shake off the stigma that will now be permanently attached to him. That in itself is poetic justice!

Second incident

 On June 5 a video surfaced on Facebook showing enforcement staff from the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council (MPJBT) bludgeoning seven strays to death with an iron rod. The video was taken by G.Suhanthan who trailed a lorry carrying the dogs and subsequently recorded the brutal culling which took place at the back of a warehouse in Jalan Makmur, Skudai.

Public outrage

An enforcement personnel puts the carcass of one of the dogs that was killed into a plastic bag. STAR PIX

The video which went viral on social media enraged netizens and resulted in a flurry of media reports which put the heat on MPJBT. 

Soon after, MPJBT president Sallehuddin Hassan was quoted by Star Online on June 8 as saying that the brutal slaying was a "terrible mistake".

On June 12 the portal reported that MPJBT had put on hold their operations to catch stray dogs amidst mounting public outcry over the incident. It was also reported that a decision would be made at the next full council meeting on whether action would be taken against the officers involved.

The brutal slaying of the dogs took place behind this cement wall at the warehouse in Jalan Makmur, Skudai.

On June 11, 15 individuals and four non-governmental organisations lodged reports at the Skudai police station against MPJBT over its treatment of stray dogs. Among those who lodged reports was Suhanthan who had on June 9 made the first police report after witnessing and recording the incident on his mobile phone.

Also at the police station was Puspa Rani, the president of Malaysian Independent Animal Rescue (MIAR). Her organisation which has a huge following on Facebook, has been instrumental in championing the plight of the strays.

Puspa and her team have consistently highlighted the brutal manner in which stray dogs are caught and put down by the local councils and private dog catchers.

And she isn't going to take this latest incident lightly either. She told media present at the police station that if she failed to get a satisfactory response from the council or relevant agency, she will be bringing the matter up to the complaints bureau in the Prime Minister's Department.

Will Malaysian dogs finally get justice?

The fact that local councils catch and cull strays dogs in a cruel manner has been an "open secret" for a long time now. Each time an incident comes to light and the press starts asking questions, this are the "usual" standard responses from council folk:

- We will review our procedure.
- We need to build a bigger pound to house stray dogs.
- We have the right to put down strays, but we agree that it should be done in a more humane manner.
- There are too many strays; the injections are expensive and not easy to obtain.
- We need to have more trained personnel to handle this.
- We would like to work with the NGOs. However when pressed further, they are usually vague on how they intend to initiate this.

Despite much talk over the years, Malaysian dogs continue to be brutally put down. Once the hype is over, the councils will go back to their old ways. In fact, MPJBT president Sallehuddin must rue the day Suhanthan caught his enforcement personnel in action. That is probably the only thing they are sorry about.

Will we then go back to square one once the hype is over? Difficult to tell, but the fact that MPJBT have halted their stray catching ops in light of all the public outcry, says something.

So to all animal lovers out there, keep lodging police reports when you hear of incidences of cruelty and keep sharing it on social media. And when you witness an incident first hand, whip out your smartphone and record it!

At this point those who perpetuate acts of cruelty against Malaysian dogs are getting away scot-free. But there's a huge movement for justice brewing on social media and the future is an open ended book.

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