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Saturday May 12, 2012

There are no bad dogs, only bad owners

THE Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (Petpositive)

is deeply saddened over the death of an elderly jogger who was mauled by a miniature bull terrier cross in Subang Jaya.

As a national organisation that works towards bringing hope and joy through animal-assisted therapy for disabled and elderly Malaysians, it is not hard to imagine how shocked and upset we all are at the news.

And what more that such a horrible tragedy should happen to a gentleman in his 70s.

Domesticated pets such as dogs can play – and have played – a tremendous positive role in the lives of human beings.

They have helped alleviate stress, fight crime and offered unparalleled companionship to their owners.

But in some cases things can go very wrong with pets, like this rare and horrible tragedy on May 8.

In such situations, dogs equally become victims of such tragedies when they are incarcerated or put down as “dangerous dogs”.

Despite the kind of work that we do, Petpositive has always also spoken out for the safety of vulnerable people in dog attacks, like the elderly, disabled and children.

What transpired should not have happened to anyone.

And we must do our best to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

In fact, it is everyone’s responsibility – the local authorities as well civil societies – to play their part to ensure that the outside environment and public places are safe for all persons.

Local councils, for instance, ought to get tougher on their laws when pet owners let their dogs out without being on a leash.

One would be surprised to discover that some of these errant pet owners are professionals.

They are either too lazy or just plain ignorant about the need to accompany their pets on walks.

Whether they are licensed or not, dogs kept in a pound should only be released after the owners have paid their fines.

These fines should be increased in order to let owners know that local councils mean business.

Councils should also license dog trainers and breeders and educate them from time to time on the rights of non-animal owners and their right to a safe environment.

This should be done together with the Veterinary Services Department (DVS).

Local councils and the DVS should conduct talks on responsible pet ownership and provide tips on how to avoid dog attacks for local residents groups in each local council vicinity.

The DVS should revise its banned dog list.

Putting fear in people will never educate them.

Besides, it will only make unscrupulous dog trainers and breeders go after such breeds, and promising naive persons that the so-called “banned breeds” are guaranteed to protect their homes.

Petpositive, which has worked with Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Dobermanns and other breeds, has always believed that there are no bad breeds or dogs, only bad owners.

People should be taught how to choose a dog, how to care for it and know when to call in a professional when pets exhibit problems.

Each and every local council should start creating dog parks in certain areas to give pet owners an opportunity to exercise and socialise their pets.

Many parks currently disallow pets, thus exacerbating the problem for pet owners who have no where else to take them.

ANTHONY S.B. THANASAYAN,

President,

Petpositive.

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