THE most recent case of animal cruelty reported in the media of a woman fined RM30,000 for abusing two dogs brings to the forefront the fact that despite the existence of stringent legislation, acts of cruelty against animals still persist (“Admin clerk pleads guilty to animal cruelty”; online at bit.ly/star_cruel).
According to the media, there were 662 reported cases of animal abuse in 2018; in 2017, there were 510 cases and in 2016,463. But these statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more cases that go unreported or undetected throughout the length and breadth of the nation. If enforcement was more stringent and public awareness more widespread, the number of offenders would be much higher.
The Animal Welfare Act 2015 is to ensure those caught acting cruelly towards animals are adequately punished. But there are many who escape punishment.
It is time for the authorities to double their enforcement efforts. If manpower is the problem, we should recruit more animal welfare officers who have compassion for animals and will see to their proper treatment. Every case of animal cruelty must be investigated and prosecuted. Fines imposed must be commensurate with the offences committed. This is necessary to send a message that animal cruelty of any form must not be tolerated.
There must also be a greater effort to create public awareness of the need to protect the vulnerable and unloved. It is not unusual to see animals, both strays and pets, being badly treated but no reports are made because people do not wish to be involved.
Perhaps we should introduce some form of incentive, or ensure anonymity for those who report such cases so that more people will be encouraged to be vigilant and report cases of animal cruelty.
Animal cruelty can be avoided by fulfilling the five freedoms for animals: As currently expressed, they are freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.
Make no mistake, animals are indeed part of our community, whether as pets, strays, in captivity or roaming freely in the wild. It is our responsibility to care for them. It is a noble cause to give voice and representation to a segment of our society that is voiceless – unfortunately, even the smartest animal hasn’t figured out how to register its own Facebook page, and they can’t take to the streets in protest.
Any form of brutality against animals anywhere must not be tolerated and the relevant authorities must put a stop to such ill-treatment through the Animal Welfare Act.
Animal lovers can do their part to adopt unwanted animals and help rehome them. The public should be reminded that owning a pet is a huge responsibility and not simply a short-term, fashionable phase.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Patron, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals (SPCA), Selangor
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