Better protection for all creatures great and small

ANIMAL rights activists will certainly welcome Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong’s announcement that work is being carried out on the proposed Animal Welfare Bill pending its tabling as legislation.

Given the horrendous treatment of animals being reported in the media in recent times, there is a pressing need for the Bill to be passed as soon as possible.

Chua’s announcement that the outdated Animal Act is being amended and appended with guidelines concerning pets is also timely as many pets are known to suffer in the hands of owners who either don’t care or don’t know how to care for their animals.

The biggest victims of animal cruelty and abuse here are dogs, which lead a precarious existence in our society.

Under proposed amendments, anyone found guilty of abusing animals can be fined up to RM50,000 or jailed for a year or both.

The current penalty is only a maximum fine of RM200 or a jail term of not more than six months, or both.

It is the inadequacy of the Act that led to an engineer “strolling” away with a RM100 fine imposed by a magistrate in 2005 in spite of his admission that he neglected his German Shepherd Sheena.

When Sheena was rescued by the Department of Veterinary Services and the SPCA, the dog had to be immediately euthanised due to complications from severe malnutrition.

Recently, a hawker in Section 17, Petaling Jaya, found himself in trouble after scalding a stray dog with boiling water.

He has since been interviewed by the DVS. It is not known yet how he will be penalised.

The Government’s initiatives in strengthening the laws on animal welfare should be applauded but certain warts within the system must also be looked into.

Many animal activists claim that local councils are the biggest abusers of dogs that they catch.

The dogs allegedly undergo a lot of torture while being caught and transported to pounds before they are put down with lethal injection.

Animal activists and rescue groups are urging for the more humane method of stray control, called Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) instead of culling.

Perhaps the Bill can include the necessity for the local councils to look into the TNRM system as opposed to immediately reaching out for the syringe as a solution.

Chua’s ministry must also address the hiring of canine bounty hunting companies by local councils to carry out dog catching on their behalf.

Many allegations, ranging from harassment of dog owners and dog-napping, have been made against these companies.

The proposed legislation must also address pet shops which animal activists say have become a place for backyard breeders.

Any new law or amendment to an existing one will be pointless if the Attorney-General’s Chambers does not see the importance of prosecuting animal abuse cases.

Unless every party involved is willing to address the matter seriously, the tabling of the Bill as well as the amendments to the existing Act will not be of much use.

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