My dear friends, do you have dogs? Do you love them, really love them?
Please don’t keep dogs if you don’t love them. If you truly love them, spay or neuter them to stop them from having unwanted litters and don’t ever let them loose. By doing so, you are indirectly helping your local council to control the stray dog population in your city or town.
I am angry with some people who call themselves pet lovers. They keep dogs but do not bathe them or feed them well. Some keep their pets chained whole day and night to the front gates. Others let their dogs roam the streets and neighbourhoods and do not spay or neuter them.
When female dogs give birth, the so-called pet lovers just throw their puppies on the streets. Many of these puppies later grow up to become strays.
Some of these healthy, adoptable animals end up in pet shelters like those run by the Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) in Kuching. The more fortunate ones end up in loving homes.
At animal shelters, spaying and neutering are routinely carried out on puppies, as well as kittens, as well as on older pets as a form of population control.
But do you know that many of the strays picked up from the streets will be euthanized because there are not enough people willing to adopt them or enough space or funding to keep them sheltered and fed?
Have you ever witnessed the catching of stray dogs by your local council before?
Just two days ago, I saw workers from the Kuching South City Council catching a stray female dog at my neighbourhood food court.
To me, it was a heartbreaking scene. I had crossed path with the poor white fat dog on the pavement outside the food court.
At first, I did not know it was a stray. It was limping and could barely walk. I later realised it had been shot by a tranquiliser gun.
In hot pursuit were two men with nooses. When I looked back a few minutes later, the men had already carried the helpless dog to a van belonging to the council. I was saddened by what I saw.
I later found out from an assistant at the food court that the council workers began catching stray dogs in the area after a father complained about how his daughter was almost bitten by one.
I pitied the poor dog I saw. It might not be the animal the father complained about. I blamed the original pet owner who made it a stray. If he or she had spayed or neutered the mother dog, this dog would not have been born to live a miserable life on the street.
On the other hand, I understand the dangers posed by stray dogs, especially with the presence of the rabies virus in the state.
Early this month, a six-year-old girl at Taman Satria, Jalan Ulu Oya, Sibu sustained serious facial injuries after she was attacked by a suspected rabid dog while playing in front of her house.
Veterinary Services Sarawak director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud said the dog which died exhibited symptoms indicative of rabies and samples taken had been sent to the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
In fact, in the last few years, following reports of increasing number of bites by suspected rabid dogs in Kuching, Sarikei and Sibu divisions, operations against stray dogs have been carried out by many local councils in the state under supervision of the state Veterinary Services Department.
Dogs found roaming around, including pet dogs and those with tags indicating that they had been vaccinated against rabies, are not spared.
The dogs caught will be kept for 48 hours before being put down and pet owners must claim their dogs within that period.
It looks like the rabies virus is still very active in Sarawak.
Do you know that from January to March 19 this year, rabies cases had been recorded in 20 areas in the state?
These areas, according to Minister for Modernisation of Agriculture and Regional Development, Datuk Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, are within a 10km radius of previously declared rabies-infected areas.
In July 2021, 72 areas in Sarawak were declared as rabies-infected areas, namely, seven in Kuching, four in Samarahan, 22 in Serian, six in Sri Aman, three in Betong, five in Sarikei, three in Sibu, one in Kapit, six in Mukah, five in Bintulu, eight in Miri and two in Limbang.
And do you know that Sibu Division recorded a cumulative 13 human rabies fatalities between January last year and May 19 this year, with cases occurring mostly in rural areas?
Now, the Sarawak Public Health Committee (SPHC) is looking into amending existing Local Authorities (Dog Licensing and Control) By-Laws 2018 to better tackle errant pet owners for continually letting dogs out despite repeated reminders.
Deputy Minister of Public Health, Housing and Local Government II Michael Tiang said it was dangerous to let pets roam free as Sibu had the highest number of rabies cases in the state.
Every dog owner, he said, must take the responsibility to keep their pets within house compounds to avoid rabies infection from other dogs.
To conclude, if you have dogs, please love them. Spay or neuter them to stop them from having unwanted litters and don’t ever let them loose.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.