KUCHING: When Magistrate Maris Agan sentenced Kumbang Jeli to one-month jail for killing five puppies, he not only validated the growing public concern towards animal welfare, but also set a precedent for cruelty cases that have gone to court in the country.
The 55-year-old shop assistant was convicted of the deed under Section 3(1) Cruelty to Animals (Prevention) Ordinance 1963 and punished under Section 5(2) of the same ordinance which carries a maximum penalty of three months’ jail or RM500 fine.
The penalty was still not enough to satisfy local animal lovers, who have been bombarded with stories and visuals of animal abuse cases from all over the country – cases that have gotten away with a lot less.
Many said that Kumbang should have received more than one month for five lives, but as far as the Sarawak Society for Prevention to Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) is concerned, this is a significant victory.
“This sentence is unprecedented in Malaysia and we hope that it will serve as ample deterrent to other animal abusers out there,” SSPCA president Dona Drury-Wee said in a press statement.
“We would like to thank the police, and in particular investigating officer Inspector Wan Amir, for bringing this case before the court so quickly. We would also like to thank all the witnesses who came forward to help the police in the investigation.”
Wee added that it was heart-warming to realise that there were many animal lovers out there who were willing to stand up and do the right thing to stop animal abuse.
“Justice has been served for those five innocent puppies. We will continue to do our part, with your help and support, to stop animal abuse in Kuching.”
On July 18, Kumbang was seen hurling the puppies against the concrete floor behind Setia Raja commercial centre after their mother tried to attack him. Eyewitnesses gathered the dead puppies, took photos and posted them on the SSPCA Facebook page. The society spoke to witnesses in the area and filed a police report on July 21.
According to SSPCA, the case had achieved two ‘firsts’ – the first case of animal abuse to be successfully prosecuted in Sarawak and the first case of animal abuse in Malaysia to receive a one-month jail sentence.
“We understand that previous successfully prosecuted cases in Peninsular Malaysia have received no more than three days’ jail and in many cases, no jail time at all,” said SSPCA chairperson Rebecca D’Cruz.
“It is our hope that this landmark case will set a precedent for future cases and serve as a deterrent to all animal abusers.”
World Animal Groove (WAG) Festival artistic director and honorary SSPCA member Amir Yussof said the Animal Ordinance Act had always been in existence but enforcement was always lacking.
“This is a very important achievement and it is long overdue. Unfortunately, the sentences are still very light but this case is important as it highlights the law among the public and that one can be imprisoned for such inhumane act.”
Amir, who is based in Kota Kinabalu, added that this was long overdue and expressed his hope that it would spill over to KK and the rest of the country.
“In Western and European nations it is already common practice to protect the rights of animals.”
He also hoped that this would encourage and instill confidence in other animal rights groups.
“There are a lot of animal lovers out there but the animals need more than love from us. They need commitment – ‘We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves’. This means supporting animal rights groups, physically and financially. This means following up on cases of cruelty and raising funds to improve the situation.”
According to Amir, the attitude of the public must change from hoping that someone would do something about such situations, to taking the initiative and being pro-active, either joining and volunteering with such groups or donating and supporting those who are doing it.
“This is the digital age and every single person can be a part of the change. With all the technology
we have at our finger tips, all it takes is compassion and a desire to see change. Actions speak louder than words. Education at home and at school is key. Without animals, we are nothing.”
Ryan Lee, a witness who first alerted SSPCA about the incident, said he had no idea how big a ripple he was creating.
Lee’s photos showed the dead puppies in a box, gathered by concerned witnesses at the scene. Shared extensively throughout Facebook by fellow users, it went on to unite the voices of social media users against the kind of injustice that has long gotten off too lightly in this country.
“I’m glad my little attempt has made such significant impact and brought the man to justice. It’s a big step in the protection of animals,” he said.