Friday, 16 May 2014

Letter to the Editor: Authorities need to show stronger commitment towards ending animal cruelty and abuse


(Photo reproduced from The Star without permission but in accordance with the principles of fair use. Rest in peace, Brianna. I am sorry my fellow humans can be so cruel and ignorant.)

It is with sorrow and outrage that caring citizens learned today of the death of Brianna, the dog shot at with arrows (The Star, May 16). Our disappointment is no doubt exacerbated by the recent report that there is very little possibility that the perpetrator would be charged with a crime despite his intentionally cruel and dangerous act. 

The reluctance of the police and Attorney-General's Chambers to take action against the perpetrator on grounds that he was merely trying to "protect his children" sets a harmful precedent and creates opportunities for other animal abusers to rely on the same flimsy excuse of self-preservation even in cases where it is patently clear that the animal is in no state to attack or harm anyone. 

To condone this man's actions is to condone disproportionate use of force, violence and cruelty in our society, where people are encouraged to shoot, stab or bludgeon to death other living beings when a simple shout or a blast of water from the garden hose would have served the purpose of chasing away a dog from one's gate. 

This case highlights both the need for stronger, stricter laws and heavier penalties for animal abuse and cruelty in Malaysia, as well as the need for the cooperation and commitment of law enforcement bodies, the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Department of Veterinary Services to ensure that these laws are enforced appropriately, fairly and consistently. 

The proposed Animal Welfare Bill which was tabled in Parliament last year has yet to be given statutory footing. The Bill already has the overwhelming support of Malaysians, and once enacted into law, will increase the penalties for animal abuse and provide guidelines as to the adequate care of animals. We therefore urge all our elected representatives to approve the passage of this Bill, the enactment of which is sorely needed and long overdue. 

There is also deep concern over the manner in which the authorities handle animal cruelty and abuse investigations. An Act of Parliament can only be as effective as the persons and agencies who are implementing and enforcing it. The authorities cannot treat animal abuse as though it is not a "real offence". Animal cruelty is symptomatic of psychological disturbance and a tendency to anger easily and resort to violence. We should never desensitize society to cruelty and violence. At the moment, the authorities are only too happy to dismiss this case as an instance of 'a protective father wanting to keep his family safe' and animal rescuers and activists as troublemakers. The Department of Veterinary Services should work with animal rights and welfare organisations to educate and assist members of the public in mediating animal-related neighbourhood disputes, avoiding animal attacks and encouraging responsible animal care. 

On behalf of all rational Malaysians who believe in the sanctity of all lives, I therefore urge the authorities to proceed to prosecute this man under the Penal Code and existing Animal Act 1953 for animal abuse and cruelty. The burden of proof lies on the perpetrator / defendant, and not the police, to prove that he was acting in self-defence! To let him off so easily despite the fact that he had used a dangerous weapon against an animal that was not posing a threat is to create a pathway to depravity, violence and cruelty in our society.  


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