Treat animals with kindness, says pet service provider


Photos By ART CHEN

Pet services provider Asther Lau says that dogs are companion animals and need care and attention too.

Asther Lau is very passionate about educating people to be responsible and educated pet owners. Her volunteer work in helping to rescue and rehome stray dogs made her realise the need for creating awareness on responsible pet ownership, she says.

Lau herself has two dogs, Meelo, a six-year-old black poodle and Lexi, a 10-year-old cream coloured poodle who is a rescue.

“Raising Meelo, my first dog at my new home, taught me a lot about compassion towards pets and understanding their needs. I started to understand more about dog behaviour and psychology as well as training dogs, and I wanted to train him to be a good dog so that he would be able to behave well in public,” she says.

“I started to understand why dogs bark or dirty the floor, and not just my own dog but also why strays bark at people or are aggressive,” she adds.

Asther Lau's volunteer work in helping to rescue and rehome stray dogs made her realise the need for creating awareness on responsible pet ownership.Asther Lau's volunteer work in helping to rescue and rehome stray dogs made her realise the need for creating awareness on responsible pet ownership.Lau joined a group of volunteers to rescue and rehome dogs in 2019. They became more active during the pandemic when there was more flexibility of time, less traffic and fewer people around making their “work” easier to carry out.

“We started this programme of trapping, neutering, and rehoming or releasing (for those that couldn’t be rehomed) them.”

According to Lau, people have the misconception that stray dogs are pests. To her, they are just very misunderstood and often, abused.

“Most of the ones we rescue are puppies and sickly ones. If we don’t rescue them, they might get run down by cars, bitten by other strays or abused by people throwing stones at them to chase them away,” she explains.

“Many stray dogs also have health or skin issues from neglect and living on the streets.

“After catching them, we send them to the vet for health treatment and screening as well as spaying/neutering. They are then fostered or released.

“For those that are released, we manage by feeding them daily and giving them preventive care medication for ticks, heartworm, and other ailments,” she says.

Lau says that while people may think that feeding and helping stray dogs would lead to more strays, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Dogs are territorial. The strays will fend off other intruding strays. The only issue is perhaps overpopulation. That’s why feeding and giving them good health isn’t sufficient. They must also be spayed or neutered,” she says.

Feeding too must be done responsibly, she adds.

“Don’t feed them in a very public place where there are lots of people walking past or children playing. Try to lure them back to their hiding place to feed.”

Lau says that the dogs are rehomed by organising adoption drives and putting their photos up on online pet portals. They also get help from NGOs that have a strong online presence such as myforeverdoggo.

The dogs that are released back into society are vulnerable to being caught by town council dog catchers and may be put in the pound where they’re likely to be euthanised if they can’t eventually find a home, says Lau adding that this isn’t a good “solution”.

Source of the problem

Lau hopes to spread awareness about responsible pet ownership.Lau hopes to spread awareness about responsible pet ownership.

Lau highlights that while some pet owners allow their dogs to roam freely outside during the day and return home at night, this is being irresponsible.

“While this may be acceptable in kampungs, it isn’t in cities. In a kampung, everyone knows it’s your dog so they’re less likely to complain.

“But in the city, dogs aren’t allowed to roam freely. This is why people have lost their pets to dog catchers, even those that have tags and/or collars,” she says.

It takes a lot of understanding and knowledge to know how to best take care of your pet, says Lau. She discourages pet owners from “home breeding” their dogs because it might lead to irresponsible pet ownership.

“Some pet owners aren’t willing to spay or neuter their pets, thinking they can get cute puppies to sell and earn money. But they don’t realise that if they sell those puppies to irresponsible owners who buy them just because they’re cute, they might abandon them later on if aren’t able to cope,” she explains.

Lau reveals that her dog Lexi who is a rescue, was such an abandoned pet. Lucky, a four-and-a-half-year-old rescued poodle who comes for daycare, wasn’t abandoned but something untoward happened to his owner and he was no longer able to take care of Lucky and his other dogs, she says.

Caring for dogs

Lau is very passionate about educating people to be responsible and educated pet owners.Lau is very passionate about educating people to be responsible and educated pet owners.

Lau also provides comprehensive pet care services including pet sitting, pet walking, pet boarding, pet taxi, and house calls mainly for dogs. She only takes in two dogs at a time and with her own dogs, that makes four.

“Instead of taking in more dogs which is more financially viable, I prefer to keep it small scale so that I can give all the dogs proper care and attention. Rather than a business, it’s more of my passion and a therapy career because looking after the dogs can be ‘therapeutic’,” she says.

To ensure dogs that come for daycare or boarding get along with her dogs, she requires that all new client to bring their dogs for a one day assessment to see if they get along with the other dogs. Besides advocating for the welfare of dogs, Lau also advocates for other companion animals.

“A lot of people don’t know the proper care for rabbits and guinea pigs. They don’t realise they must be kept in pairs and not alone or they’ll get depressed. Rabbits also need hard hay to help wear down their teeth and keep their digestive system healthy,” she says, adding that she plans to take in cats too.

Managing conflict

It’s good if the educational system teaches children to be kind to animals, and to take care of their pets, says Lau.It’s good if the educational system teaches children to be kind to animals, and to take care of their pets, says Lau.It’s good if the educational system teaches children to be kind to animals, and to take care of their pets, she opines.

“Lucky used to have separation anxiety and when he was left at home alone. He would scratch the door until his paws started bleeding. He was also scared of thunderstorms so he would jump onto tables and knock over things,” she cites as an example.

“His first adopter returned him because they didn’t know how to deal with him. But with lots of care and training, he is now very very calm and well-behaved,” she says.

“Certain pet behaviours result in misunderstanding and conflict but there are ways to solve them.

According to Lau, some dogs suffer from separation anxiety because they’ve never been trained to be independent. They can be sent to a dog trainer or there are also many resources on how to train your dog online, she says, adding that training has to be consistent.

Lau says that she hopes to advocate for a caring and compassionate community, as promoted by the Tengku Permaisuri of Selangor Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin, the Royal Patron of the Stray Free Selangor (SFS) campaign run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) who recently expressed her disappointment and sadness at how dogs were neglected and mistreated at a dog shelter managed by Langat Municipal Council (MDKL).

“There needs to be a change in mentality because these stray dogs are seen as ‘pests’. The jobscope of dog catchers and dog pounds is to ‘catch and eliminate pests’ so this is why they are often treated inhumanely, neglected and abused,” says Lau.

The Animal Welfare Act 2015 is the first step to ensure animals are protected but there needs to be better enforcement and more specific laws to encourage responsible pet ownership and discourage irresponsible pet breeding in order for dogs in Malaysia to be treated as what they are, companion animals, concludes Lau. – Ming Teoh


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