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Tackling the problem of stray dogs

Posted on May 29, 2011, Sunday

A HOUSEOWNER once saw a mongrel rummaging through his rubbish bin and said doggone it.

Most people would say the same thing about stray dogs that raid trash cans and raise hell with their barking and fighting around the neighbourhoods, especially at night.

These canines also frequently make a nuisance of themselves by not only chasing people but also sniffing for scraps of food or scratching their ichy bodies near dining tables at public eateries.

To be sure, not all dogs are like Lassie, Run Tin Tin or the affable Goofy. Some are fierce such as the Presa Canario or Pit Bull breeds, and if not properly trained, their aggressive uncontrollable nature can make them man’s worst enemy rather than best friend.

A stray dog can pose a hazard to public safety. It’s rarely a case of heroics by the likes of Old Yeller or Benji basking in familial warmth after an adventure with a romantic ending. And don’t bet on either, if you happened to see your pet leading a vagabond existence.

On May 3, stray dogs in Malaysia achieved a “first” of sorts. On that day, one of its kind earned the dubious distinction of bringing the Penang Hill funicular train service to a halt.

At first, the Penang state government did not make buy what it called the “canine excuse” for the breakdown and instead suspected sabotage as the plausible cause.

However, following an investigation, an independent contractor confirmed the mechanical failure of the train was, indeed, caused by stray dogs. At the time, three dogs had tried to cross the railway track. One bumped into a sensitive component of the coach, triggering a malfunction. The whole service had to be shut down for repairs, setting the Penang Hill Corporation, the service operator, back some RM30,000.

There are other problems in society associated with stray dogs but the Penang Hill freak episode grabbed the headlines because it’s not everyday you get to hear of stray dogs knocking out an entire train service at a popular tourist spot!

On the flipside, stray dogs constantly expose themselves to the cruelty of people who have no love for animals, as well as dangers from vehicles. Besides, animals are often fatally injured after getting into fights with other animals. Even if they did survive, there is a very high possibility they could still end up in the hands of heartless people.

There cosmetic companies that carry out illegal experiments on animals found wandering the streets. And as unpalatable as it may sound, in the eyes of many food operators, stray dogs are prime ingredients for stew soup.

In this part of the world where pets are often subjected to callous treatment, reports of over 300 stray dogs (dumped on uninhabited islands) turning to cannibalism after weeks of starvation is hardly surprising.

The plight of the dogs, abandoned by villagers on two small, isolated islands off Selangor State, has sparked outrage after photographs were released showing the dogs devouring the carcasses of their own kind.

According to SPCA sources, volunteers have, so far, saved a fewß dogs and left food for the others. About 200 might have survived and further attempts are being contemplated to rescue them.

But such efforts have been slow because many of the dogs are distrustful of people and would run away when rescuers approached.

The villagers have been advised not to dump anymore dogs and the SPCA is considering measures such as sterilisation and relocation to ease problems posed by about 200 stray dogs still roaming the islands.

Animal rights groups argue most stray dogs in Malaysia are euthanised because they are unwanted, not because they are dangerous per se. Even so, putting a stray dog to sleep must be done in a humane way. Torture before killing is not only unprofesisonal and cruel but also tends to inculcate undesirable values in people witnessing the act.

As a caring society, we should discard the mentality of wanting to brutalise or kill animals for the sole sake of it. Such a mindset indicates the decadent morals of a decaying society.

Domesticated dogs, like their ancestors — canis lupus – remain predatory, swift, strong and territorial. Even small breeds have large sharp teeth, claws, strong legs and jaws, capable of causing serious injuries. Medium-to-large dogs can also knock people down with the usual effects of falls from other causes.

Dogs often make wonderful pets but in certain circumstances, especially when provoked, any types of dog can be dangerous.

Education and society’s intolerance for dangerous animals combine to reduce incidents, involving humans and dogs. Improperly managed confrontations, however, can lead to severe injuries from even the most friendly dog — a warning pet owners should do well to heed.

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