Sunday, November 1

Only vets, trained staff can use tranquillisers

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KUCHING: Only veterinarians and their trained staff can administer tranquillisers on animals because of the various health issues that need to be considered before an animal is to be sedated.

NOT THIS WAY: Tranquilised pooches dumped on a metal tray inside a truck before being taken to the pound.

A local vet, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the weight, size and condition of the animal would determine the dosage required.

“Normally when we tranquillise an animal, we need to know its size and body weight so that we     can calculate and give the appropriate dosage. In       the case of a dog, this   usually depends on its condition. If the dog is strong and active, we can give almost a full dose. But if the dog is not healthy and looks sick, we try to give half a dose and see the condition, then top up, if necessary.”

He prefers not to use tranquillisers on smaller dogs, reserving them for large and fiercer dogs that weigh more than 20kg. He said tranquillisers could be dangerous if misused.

Choosing the right is another factor that should be considered.

“Most anaesthetics by telinject or blowpipe-type administration are usually quite safe. But with certain types of drugs, you have to be careful when used in combination or on their own.”

His concern when using telijet or dart is safety. There is always a possibility of an stray dart hitting the wrong target. Moreover, it is not as effective as it seems when there is a pack of strays.

“If you shoot one, the rest will run away and then you’ll have to come back the next day.”

Though he is reluctant to use tranquillisers, he admits tranquillisation is rather humane when done properly. The only pain inflicted will be by the needle.

The Council of City    South (MBKS) uses the catch pole or loop to catch stray dogs. Tranquilliser darts have never been      used by the Council’s dog unit.

According to MBKS mayor James Chan, the council continues to use the old-fashioned catch pole because it is by far the safest to both man and animal. Besides, tranquilliser darts are not based on any recommended international standards. There is always the possibility of a stray    dart finding the wrong mark.

“All strays caught are brought to the pound alive and will be kept there for 48 hours. If unclaimed, the dogs will be handed over Sarawak Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA),” he said.

So far, the council has never received any complaints about handling of dogs by its men.

On techniques used by his men in catching strays, Ahong Tahieng, MBKS assistant environmental     and health officer attached to the dog unit, said after a dog was being looped, it was given time to calm down before being taken into the truck.

“This is to prevent the animal from hurting itself.”

MBKS dog unit is on duty seven days a week. The public can call 019-8575089 for its service.

Animal lovers believe there is room for improvement in catching stray animals.

The local councils should ensure their animal-catching units are properly trained.

There should also be provisions for setting up and maintaining animal shelters — such as the SSPCA Shelter in Kuching — in urban centres statewide.

Such shelters provide a vital public service by ensuring that stray animals, rescued by the local councils, are given proper medical care, food and shelter until they can be    re-homed or in the case of extremely sick or injured animals, put out of their misery in a humane   manner.

Enforcement of provisions under the Veterinary and Public Health Ordinance 1999 (Part VIII: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) should be stepped up as should the enforcement of licensing regulations. There should be sufficient manpower and financial resources to support this.

Protecting animal rights is not beyond a rapidly developing state like Sarawak.

All it takes is the shared will and commitment of its leaders and its people.

SSPCA’s mission

The SSPCA believes animals, as living creatures, have value beyond economic measurement, and are entitled to legal, moral and ethical consideration and protection.

Its main mission is to provide for the well-being of the animals in the state that are abandoned, injured, subjected to unfair or cruel treatment or otherwise in need.

The SSPCA strongly supports the goal of a “Stray-free Malaysia” as advocated by the Selangor SSPCA, and is doing its part to educate people to be responsible owners of pet dogs and cats, and organise neutering campaigns to reduce the number of abandoned animals in Kuching.

There is a perception that stray animals are not a “problem” in Sarawak and hence, there is no urgency to deal with it. But this is not entirely true. An un-neutered bitch or she-cat  can give birth to 7,000 new lives.

“While this may not be a glaringly evident “problem” at the moment, if left unchecked and unmanaged, it could well become increasingly serious in the future,” the association  said.

Cruelty can take many forms — a man who beats his dog is guilty of animal cruelty, so too is the family that keeps their dog in a cage or tied-up all day and night, or out in the sun and rain.

Leaving stray dogs and cats on the streets to scrounge for food, get sick and die is a form of “community cruelty.”

The SSPCA supports efforts of the local councils to curb the growing stray population, although it believes this effort should and could be conducted in a much more strategic and efficient manner.

In this regard, the association lauds the statement from Housing and Urban Development Minister, Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg on Nov 25, 2009   that the Sarawak government would come   up with a new holistic approach to deal with the problem of stray animals, particularly dogs and cats, in view of the health hazards and negative tourism image they posed.