You may think you're doing a good deed when you feed the stray dogs in your neighbourhood but this may actually lead to more problems – for the animals and also the community – if the stray animals are not spayed or neutered, says Wani Muthiah, founder of Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB).
“Feeding and neutering go hand in hand. When MDDB started out, our main intention was to reduce the number of strays on the street. The only way to do that is to get them neutered.
"Some of these dogs are not human-friendly, so one way to neuter them is to get close to them. And one way of getting close is to feed them,” explains Wani.However, just feeding the strays isn't really doing anyone any favours, she says, adding that it is important for feeders to understand the nature of street dogs.
"Street dogs only have two priorities: Food and procreation. When they are being fed by people in the community, their need for food has been taken care of. This means the dogs only have to feed their other need: To mate.
"Whenever there is a female dog on heat, male dogs will fight against each other over that one female. Often, this would result in male dogs getting serious neck injuries and female dogs getting infected with Transmissible Venereal Tumor (TVT), a sexually transmitted disease," explains Wani.
"It's not uncommon to see street dogs with tumours on the penis/prepuce or vulva. If the TVT deteriorates, it can metastasise and spread to other areas of the body," explains Wani, emphasising why it's important for street dogs to be neutered. So what should well-intentioned feeders do?
"Instead of going around and feeding as many dogs as possible, feeders should only maintain a small group of dogs and take ownership of them. If the dogs they are feeding are injured, ensure that they get treated. If the dogs are caught by the local councils, they must bail them out.
"Do not overfeed the dogs. Stay with them until the food is finished to make sure there is no rotten leftover food that will pose an environmental hazard to the surrounding residents.
"Also, set up a permanent feeding station that is far from residential areas. Feed them in the same place at the same time so that the dogs will know where and when to go for food instead of rummaging in other places. Also, always clean up after the dogs have eaten," she says, adding that once trust is built, the right thing to do would be to remove spay/neuter them.
If the cost of spaying/neutering dogs is a problem, Wani says there are "ways to get around it."
"If you spend RM500 to feed the dogs, consider keeping half of that money aside to pay for spaying or neutering the dogs. You can also reach out to NGOs and ask if they can subsidise the sterilisation procedures. There are also multiple veterinarian clinics that charge as low as RM120-150 for the service. If the feeders get subsidies and visit veterinarian clinics that charge a minimal price, the costs can actually be covered more easily," says Wani.
Crowdfunding on social media could also be an option, she adds.
"However, the feeders must ensure that the account number provided must belong to the veterinary clinic and not a personal account number for trust and accountability purposes," she says.
Voice for Paws (VFP), a non-profit organisation recently started a Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) initiative called "Spay the bae" to reduce the number of strays. According to VFP vice president Lydia Nathan, they aim to spay and neuter 50 stray dogs a month in the Puchong area. They hope to cover all stray dogs in the area within a year. Once done, they hope to move on to other housing areas.
Instead of managing it alone, VFP is working with feeders in Puchong. Feeders will get in touch with VFP and take the dogs to the designated veterinary clinics to be spayed and neutered. In addition, the dogs will also be vaccinated, de-wormed and checked for other issues like skin problems, canine distemper and parvovirus.
VFP is currently working with three to four veterinary clinics and will be looking for more to collaborate with. So far, since the initiative kicked off two weeks ago, some 18 dogs have been spayed or neutered.VFP mostly depends on public donations to carry out their project."The public can sponsor any number of dogs they wish, or they can donate RM250 to neuter a female dog or RM200 to neuter a male dog," says Lydia.
"Dog feeders are all kind people but if they are not prepared to go the extra mile, the victims are going to be the dogs,” says Wani.
If you are a feeder or have rescues that need to be spayed or neutered in Puchong, reach out to Sabrina at 014-970 6546 or Lydia at 012-754 9005 from VFP.