Call to reform stray animal management in Malaysia

By Animal Welfare Advocate Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye


KOTA KINABALU: A critical issue festers beneath the progressive façade of urban development: the inhumane treatment of stray animals. The recently unveiled strategy by the Shah Alam City Council to manage stray dogs has surfaced a raft of practices begging for societal and administrative introspection and transformation.

In a proactive step, Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) and Persatuan Haiwan Terbiar Malaysia (SAFM) have thrust the issue into the national spotlight, presenting a memorandum to Bukit Aman. This action underscores a deepening concern over the adherence, or lack thereof, to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) regarding the humane handling of stray animals. Despite the existence of these SOPs, local authorities remain entrenched in methods that may inflict undue distress and cruelty, which can even lead to the loss of animal lives.

The situation in Shah Alam is symptomatic of a broader malaise. By commissioning non-professional volunteers for the capture of stray dogs, there is an inherent risk of malpractice and maltreatment. The lack of transparency surrounding the ultimate fate of these captured animals is deeply disconcerting, prompting questions about the sanctity of life and the ethics of animal care in our nation.

Moreover, the practice of considering captured dogs as non-claimable and the opacity in the subsequent handling calls for a critical reevaluation. It evokes a sense of despair and outrage among those who advocate for the rights and welfare of animals. The noblest intentions of community safety and public health cannot be used to justify inhumane actions that neglect the well-being of animals, who are as much a part of our ecosystem as we are.

While regions like Negeri Sembilan exemplify a more civilised approach—collaborating with NGOs to manage stray populations—Selangor, sadly, bears the infamy of leading the country in cases of animal mistreatment. Recent complaints from the respective NGOs echo the collective dismay, questioning the immunity seemingly granted to local authorities despite egregious practices caught on social media.

Against this domestic backdrop, the international stage offers exemplars of more enlightened policies. Our diplomatic friendship with Turkey shines a light on possibilities yet unexplored on Malaysian soil. The Turkish model of animal management is not merely an animal welfare policy but a declaration of societal values. It mandates government investment in spaying and neutering programmes, demonstrating a sustainable, long-term approach to managing stray populations while upholding animal rights and public health. The question that thunders through the corridors of our conscience is why, despite such progressive paradigms available to us, we persist with outdated methods that betray a startling lack of empathy and foresight.

This matter extends beyond the operational framework of animal control; it is an indictment of our collective moral compass. The expedited tactics currently in place reflect a troubling indifference to suffering and a shortsightedness that undermines our aspirations as a caring and visionary society. A society that prides itself on progress and modernity cannot, in good conscience, endorse practices that are not only inhumane but are also diametrically opposed to sustainable animal population management.

Our stance on this issue must be unequivocal. The path forward is clear: it demands robust legislation, comprehensive training in humane animal handling, transparent processes, and a steadfast commitment to ethical practices. We must integrate successful international models into our own framework, recognising the intrinsic value of all living beings and the responsibility we bear towards them. We need to reform stray animal management in Malaysia.

Let us not merely advocate for change but demand it, instilling policies reflective of the highest ethical standards. I implore our leaders, policymakers, and every sector of government to align their actions with the ethos of compassion and integrity that Malaysians hold dear. It is imperative that we forge a new legacy for animal welfare—one that is anchored in humanity and executed with the utmost respect for life.

The choice before us will determine the moral trajectory of our nation. Will we continue to languish in the shadows of indifference, or will we step into the light of humane governance and compassionate stewardship? The world watches, the people yearn, and the silent plea of the voiceless resonates. The time for that choice is now.

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