LETTER TO THE EDITOR
TATTOOING A GOOD WAY TO KEEP TRACK OF PETS AND NEUTERED STRAYS
Animal welfare groups and volunteer vets in Selangor achieved a victory of sorts when they teamed up to carry out a mass neutering campaign on 27th June 2009 at Pulau Ketam, where 23 dogs (pets and strays) and 7 pet cats were successfully neutered. As more and more Malaysians demonstrate greater concern for animal welfare, there is a vital need to ensure that stray cats and dogs and free-roaming pets that have been neutered be identified as such.
At the moment, there is no requirement that spayed and neutered pets and strays must carry any sort of marking to identify them as neutered animals. As such, there is a risk that precious resources may be wasted recapturing and conducting exploratory surgery on neutered animals just to find out their reproductive history. Of course, putting an animal under anaesthesia to conduct an unnecessary surgery is also highly traumatic and stressful for the animal concerned, as well as a waste of time and manpower.
Several independent animal groups which conduct trap-neuter-and-release programmes use ear-tipping to identify neutered cats. However, ear tipping does not work as well for dogs, as not all dogs have pointed ears. In addition, some pet owners object to ear-tipping their pets when adopting from shelters, pounds and rescue groups, and an unobtrusive tattoo near the site of the spay/neuter incision would offer a more aesthetically acceptable solution.
If executed by a qualified vet, tattooing performed under anaesthesia at the same time as a major surgery (i.e neutering/spaying) is an inexpensive, safe, painless and stress-free procedure. It is also a permanent way of marking an animal, compared to merely using special collars, ID tags and ear tags. In some developed nations and in many states in the USA, the law forbids the use of tattooed animals in laboratory experiments, or the euthanasia of tattooed animals by animal control units. The only drawback of tattooing is that equipment should be autoclaved between each animal to prevent infections and blood transmitted diseases, but that should be done of all surgery equipment as a matter of course by any competent vet anyway.
Perhaps the Department of Veterinary Services, animal welfare groups and local councils can explore the possibility of coming up with a universally accepted and recognisable way of identifying neutered and released strays and free-roaming pets. If a system could be set up to use tattooing as a means of identifying pets and of tracing the pets back to their owners, the local councils could also consider creating a system whereby tattooed pets may not be impounded, or if impounded, may not be euthanized until all efforts to trace the owners have been made. This move may go a long way towards streamlining efforts to carry out mass neutering campaigns and trap-neuter-and-release strategies, and at the same time, create recognition for the fact that neutering pets and strays benefits animal health and human society.
WONG EE LYNN
PETALING JAYA, SELANGOR