Last month the reputation of the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council (MPJBT) took a beating when a video surfaced on Facebook showing enforcement staff bludgeoning stray dogs to death.
Under fire, MPJBT called a halt to ongoing operations to round up stray dogs and promised to come up with a more humane approach to tackle the issue of stray dogs.
A little more than a month later, the council announced its solution - private dog catchers who will put the dogs down with lethal injection.
The private dog catching company would charge the council RM100 per animal. All strays will be photographed and documented before the company makes a claim with the council
Read about it here
The decision however did little to redeem MPJBT's reputation among animal lovers. Within minutes of the article being posted on Facebook, netizens reacted with outrage.
Many expressed disappointment with the government for not doing enough for animal welfare. Most Malaysians also felt that the huge amount of money being spent to upkeep the Panda duo from China could be channelled to rehabilitate and help stray animals instead.
Some Facebook users said the money paid to the dog catchers, could be used to set up a shelter for the strays.
" If they can spend RM100 per dog, they can take the strays off the streets instead of killing them," said a Facebook user, expressing frustration at the lack of empathy towards stray animals.
Open to abuse
Many netizens also expressed their misgivings, citing cases where private dog catchers viciously hunted down strays and even pets to earn more money.
Previously in Kuala Lumpur and other states, there have been cases where people who were taking their dogs out for a walk, had their pets snatched from them because they could not produce the dog's licence on the spot.
There have also been cases of these private dog catchers climbing into people's compound to snatch dogs, even caged ones.
Will they stick to the lethal injection?
As stressed by MPJBT, the lethal injections are expensive, and the strays many, thanks to irresponsible owners who dump their pets and the reluctance of local councils to engage with NGOs to initiate TNRM (Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage) programmes - proven to be one of the most effective and humane solutions to control the stray population.
As such, will a profit-driven private company, the private dog catchers in this case, stick to the "expensive" lethal injections in putting down the strays or will they at some point resort to "cheaper" methods to maximise profit.
Their brief from MPJBT is to put down the dogs with lethal injection, but does the council have in place a monitoring system to ensure that the dog catchers are sticking to this method? Besides the documentation that they have to submit to make a claim.
Also the lethal injection can only be administered by a vet, and not a layman. Does the private dog catching company hired by the council have a vet in their employ to do this?
Not the solution
Private dog catchers are not the solution in tackling the issue of stray dogs. They are not pest control companies like Rentokil and the strays are not pesky pests or household bugs to be exterminated at will.
Dogs are highly intelligent and sensitive companion animals, we don't call them man's best friend for nothing do we? There needs to be a more well thought out approach to deal with dogs who end up as strays.
Also the stray problem is man-made, the continued dumping of these companion animals and the refusal to spay and neuter has led to a huge number of stray dogs.
What the council needs to do is to engage with animal welfare NGOs and shelter owners to deal with the stray issue. These folks have many ideas on how to tackle the problem, but there is only so much they can do on their own, plus funding is always scarce.
If MPJBT can fork out RM100 per-dog, why not engage with the animal welfare NGOs and put that money to good use.