MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Monday, December 31, 2012

Respect animals too

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has to get his focus in order – it is not just the rakyat who need help and support – the animals need it too.
“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened” – Anatole France, French poet, journalist and novelist.
As I stepped out to dry my laundry on a Wednesday morning of Oct 17, I was alerted to the piercing cries of a kitten. I looked around and found a box laced with a kitten inside it.
The hungry feline kept crying and unwilling to let it starve to death, I decided to do something.
For starters, I took the kitten to a veterinarian for a check-up and upon returning home I made calls to friends enquiring if they were interested in adopting the kitten –no one was keen.
The kitten was no pedigree and suffered from severe fungal infection, but still it was deserving of tender, loving and proper care, which it has since then been receiving from me, despite the fact that it has to wrestle for my time and attention from my five other cats.
Having been blessed with such pure and unconditional love from my six cats, I could relate to the hurt and anger of the pet owners who had sent their cats to a pet boarding centre in 2011 during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays. The pet owners were devastated to find their felines neglected, dehydrated, unfed and covered in faeces.
Some of the cats sent it for boarding did not make it home alive, having succumbed to dehydration and starvation.
That was what Shahrul Azuwan Adanan and Yushairi Khairuddin, owners of Petknode did when they abdicated their responsibility towards the 30 cats sent to their boarding centre in Damansara Damai.
And just how were the duo punished for their gross cruelty towards animals? Both were fined a total of RM6,000 for animal neglect with  magistrate Elena Hong Tze Lan saying she could not sentence Shahrul and Yushairi to jail as she was bound by section 44 (2) of the Animal Act 1953 (2006 Amendment) which states that offenders must be given a chance to pay a fine before being sentenced to prison time.
In the end Shahrul and Yushairi were fined RM200 for each of the 30 charges against them after the two changed their pleas to guilty on June 12 this year. If they were unable to pay the fine, both would go to jail but for only a day.
Is this how the law regards animal life as worthy? In spite of the repeated calls for the Animal Act to be more forceful in dealing with animal abusers, the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) which has the statutory right to take legal action animal abusers seems unperturbed over the rising cases of animal abuse.
Why the indifference towards violence against animals? Does the animals’ inability to demand and fight for justice warrant an unbiased judgment against them?
Get rid of ineffective laws
In what was seen as the biggest case of animal abuse in the country, the RM6,000 fine against the Petknode owners was but a slap on the wrist, with the news leaving many animals lovers heart broken.
Shahriza Idrus, a volunteer with the Stray Cat Rescue and Treatment Community Help lamented that the penalty failed to serve as a deterrent and said the authorities need to “do something” about the Animal Act.
Shahrul Azuwan and Yushairi were charged under section 44 (1) of the Animals Act which provides for a maximum six months’ jail, a RM200 fine or both for each offence upon conviction.
Petknode had advertised its pet boarding services for as little as RM3.95 per night ahead of the Hari Raya celebrations last year.
In hindsight, the Petknode issue should serve as a lesson to all pet guardians to not fall for such a ‘too good to be true’ offer. The onus lies with them to do some ‘homework’ before sending their pets in for boarding.
Anyhow, the Petknode incident also revealed the apathy surrounding animal rights in this country, more so that shown by DVS, its lack of enforcement being blamed for the rise of animal cruelty in the city especially.
The scenario is no different in the case of the municipal councils which have been branded as ‘toothless’ due to the absence of enforcement of the by-laws.
Two years ago the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said a total of 657 animal cruelty cases were reported in 2009 with 90 % involving dogs and regrettably none were prosecuted.
For those cases that made it to court, the end result was a paltry fine issued to the perpetrator.
It seems that the abuse suffered by Sheena, a German Shepherd dog who was abandoned by her owner has failed to prick the conscience of both the law makers and authorities when it comes to delivering justice in cases of animal abuse.
Increasing the fine from RM200 to RM50,000 is not going to help if cases of animal abuse are not taken seriously by DVS.
Respect animals, get tough with the law
In March last year, a woman claiming to be depressed stomped on three kittens. While her cruelty was captured on CCTV and went viral, Chao Xiao Wei  was let off with a mere RM400 fine with no jail term.
It is time that Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry which oversees the DVS ceases giving false assurances and starts taking cases of animal cruelty seriously. Its minister Noh Omar has to make an effort to study the animal cruelty laws that are enforced by countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Taiwan and Japan among others.
Going by animal rights lawyer N Surendran’s frustration that despite there being provisions for the municipal councils to take action against animal abusers and none had done so, it is clear that animal rights is not a priority in any way with our authorities.
For example, Section 10 of the 2007 local council by-laws state that any person who ill-treats a dog can be fined not more than RM2,000 or be imprisoned for not more than a year or both and yet the councils’ enforcement officers do nothing each time cases of animal cruelty are reported.
Surendran said the Malaysia animal laws are one of the worst in the world; here the 124-year-old London-based The Mayhew Animal Home and Humane Education Centre cannot agree more, its conclusion that the many cases of animal abuse in Malaysia depict a lack of respect for the animals.
Looks like Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has to get his focus in order – it is not just the rakyat who need help and support – the animals need it too. And who better than Najib, who himself owns a cat, should understand this.
Wishing all of you a Blessed 2013!
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

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