The Future of Animal Welfare in Malaysia: What can we do?
People, we've got a problem. Recently, more animals (dogs and cats, specifically) are ending up in shelters nationwide increasingly – the pandemic had only worsened the situation! According to the Malaysian Animal Association, an area which typically has five dogs would triple to 15 in a day. That is an increase of 300%! And while these animal shelters provide a temporary home for the needy animals awaiting adoption, the situations of these animals are even more dismal nowadays, they are forced to go hungry, live in below par conditions, and unfortunately -as a last resort- euthanasia.
Why is this happening?
It's no mystery that animal shelters are unable to take care of all the animals that require their help and attention. This is due to two simple reasons, and that is people aren't compelled by law to save animals and animal shelters often lack funding. Many, if not, all of them, will indefinitely face minimal resources and financial difficulties. You see, unlike in the United States, animal shelters in Malaysia are not publicly funded, which means they are forced to rely and depend on donations and/or sponsors to continue operating. Without donations from the public, shelters are unable to sustain themselves and take good care of abandoned animals.
If we want these animal shelters to remain open — what can we do?
This is crucial in solving the problem: public awareness. Awareness is the first and most important step towards changing public and official attitudes, which would in turn, draw in public funding. When awareness is achieved, donations and public support will soon follow effortlessly. Making people aware and helping them understand what they can do will start a chain reaction of actions.
We need to firstly educate the public, for example, on what rescue groups do and why they are important — Cat Beach Sanctuary (Penang), PAWS Animal Welfare Society (Petaling Jaya), and SPCA Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), to name a few. Animal welfare groups have to promote and show the public that they are providing a service that can benefit them as well as their companion animals. Many do not comprehend the consequences of overpopulated stray animals. From rabies and bites to the increase in car accidents, we could be putting people’s lives at risk too if we do not keep shelters and rescue groups operating.
Did you know that local state authorities and council municipals operate on a system that just isn’t very kind to animals?
These rules, regulations, and guidelines allows them to euthanise any unclaimed strays and abandoned pets, regardless if they have been neutered or not. This needs to change. We need to stand in unity to actively campaign and educate people, and those in power that this is not the solution and that they can do better. The trap, neuter, and release (TNR) method needs to be enforced and practiced. It is a definitely a kinder and better way to save these animals.
Besides, we need to form groups of volunteers and activists who will actively campaign for this cause. This is no easy task as many people often feel distant from one another, what more a different species from us? The Malaysian Journal of Veterinary Research had conducted a survey on the public’s preference on whether the authorities should practice the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) scheme instead of the Trap-Euthanize scheme. Over 38% of respondents agreed and accepted the Trap-Euthanize scheme, whereas the more compassionate method, TNR scheme, got 27%. We need to foster and cultivate empathy and sympathy. We need to change the public perception and mindset. Is euthanasia really the way?
But how do we make an impact? Where do we start?
Remember: the first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one. People need to know that this is a problem, and one that needs to be addressed humanely. Aka creating awareness.
So, spread the message around, physically, and virtually. Get these messages out there among potential adopters, donors, lawmakers, organisations, and many more. Let everyone know that all of us have an important role to play in this matter. Go forth and support local communities and non-profit organisations around you today. The more support they get, the more hopeful projects can be implemented for the welfare of our animals. They too, deserves to be treated humanely, and it is the prime time that we do something about it.
About the Writer:
Poh Yee is a techie who enjoys writing. Recently, she decided to embark on a journey of volunteerism to push herself out of her comfort zone. She has been a volunteer under Roots & Shoots Malaysia Award for two consecutive years - caring for sun bears and the forest! If you are keen on finding out more about technology or volunteering, find her on LinkedIn!
1. More pets being dumped during MCO – Malaysian Animal Association; April 2020
2. Consequences of Stray Dogs Overpopulation in Asia; July 2019
3. Council officers lack awareness on animal cruelty, says independent rescuer; January 2020
4. An Alternative to Euthanasia: Helping Stray Animals in Malaysia; April 2017
5. Volume 10 No. 2 – Malaysian Journal of Veterinary Research; January 2019