FIRST of all, my heartiest congratulations to Pakatan Harapan on forming the new government. Their win was a victory for the rakyat.
Looking at the pace in which the newly appointed ministers are making positive reforms, I can’t help but feel hopeful for a new Malaysia 2.0 which will be revered on the international stage.
With the new federal government in office, I would like to make a humble request for the welfare of animals, both wild and domestic, to be looked into. I understand that there are many pressing issues currently that need urgent attention. However, let us be the voice of the animals who also belong here in Malaysia.
I would like to ask the new Government to look into the following matters pertaining to animal welfare and the environment:
1) Reform local councils and draw up strict rules and procedures to catch stray animals. There should be an effective channel to get these animals treated and subsequently adopted rather than leaving them in poor conditions or putting them down. There have been many cases of local councils mishandling and abusing animals;
2) Advocate the trap, neuter and release programme in neighbourhoods as this will reduce strays and chances of animal abuse;
3) Set up a hotline for the public to complain about animal abuse and also to alert the authorities on animals involved in road accidents so they may receive medical attention;
4) Set up an agency that will conduct regular audits on zoos and entertainment outlets that feature animals. Please revoke licences of such places if animals are found to be malnourished and kept in deplorable conditions;
5) Appoint environmentalists in mega projects to evaluate the impact of the projects on the environment and how they can be minimised;
6) Evaluate all new housing and development projects with an environmentalist on board. Deforestation is on the rise with trees being chopped down to make way for development;
7) Malaysia is known to be a hub for animal smuggling and wildlife trade. Although individuals have been arrested and syndicate rings busted, it is too late as the animals are already dead and would have endured a painful death. Prevention is better than cure. Tighten up our borders, keep a vigilant eye on social media and empower the public to lodge complaints on any illegal wildlife trading activities such as restaurants selling exotic meats;
8) Revamp Perhilitan and revise all standard operating procedures (SOP) focusing on law and enforcement activities to ensure loopholes are being addressed effectively;
9) Empower NGOs such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to conduct raids on premises and local councils suspected of animal abuse. If needed, the inspectors should be allowed to arrest the offender(s);
10) There are many NGOs in Malaysia who are fighting for animal rights and struggling to provide shelter for them. It would be more effective to put all of them under one umbrella which should be partly funded and governed by a transparent and accountable government agency. In unity, there is strength and funds and resources can be allocated appropriately;
11) Revise the education system to add subjects on values and importance of treating animals well. Animals deserve love and respect as much as we do. Although they cannot speak like us, they feel pain, hunger and thirst just like us. Abuse may not only be in the physical form. Caging or chaining up an animal all the time is also a form of abuse;
12) Create public awareness on the importance of service dogs in the police and armed forces. It is also time for us to start promoting the use of guide dogs for the physically-challenged as is being done in many other countries; and
13) Animal abusers must receive more stringent penalties which should include a heftier fine and jail term too. The current fine meted out is too small and does not deter animal abuse.
I sincerely hope the welfare of animals will be included in the reforms currently being undertaken in our loving and peaceful country. The great Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
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