Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Mangy Mess

Besides the problem I have with sharing the road with a ridiculous amount of suicidal motorcyclist (Family On Board) here in Miri, there's also another problem that I'm not able to coincide. It's the number of stray dogs and cats that are rambling around the entire city of Miri. They look shriveled and beaten as though they came back from the dead after a tragic accident of some sort. Mostly limping around on three legs with decapitated tales, a dislocated hip, mange. The list can go on forever! I couldn't help but to look in disbelief as people would walk by these helpless creatures without a single glance like they didn't even exist.

As the months went by, I became aware of myself becoming one of those people that would walk by these helpless creatures, and I too, remorsefully, turn my head in silence. I cringed because I felt so helpless and angry! Regardless of how difficult it would be for me, I wished so badly that I had a shotgun so that I could put an end to their misery, never once considering the consequences, and that it's against the law for any citizen (expats included) to carry or own an armed weapon in Malaysia. Miri doesn't have a shelter (SPCA) that I could bring them to, and it wasn't as if I could bring them home to care for them, either. We already have three dogs and two children to care for; I thought to myself. Another mouth to feed and I'd pull a chance card that says; Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200...

Surprisingly, quite a few dogs wandering around in Miri aren't in bad shape at all. I recognized them to be the 'Alpha' dogs. The 'Alpha' dogs do not appear to have been stricken by any illnesses such as mange, in which, by the way, has reached epidemic portions here. These particular dogs are extraordinary with strong features like wolves. They walk the streets in general authority mode, usually with a pack of dogs following close behind. I'm amazed to watch how these strays here in Miri cross the street better than most people.

At most worksites in the mornings, I've noticed that there are one or two alpha dogs sitting with pride in front of the entrance, as though they had just completed a graveyard shift and were waiting for a reward, food and water. I've recently spoken with a local here who has confirmed that, indeed they have stray dogs to watch over their homes and businesses, and in return they give them table scraps(chicken bones), leftovers from restaurants, water, and occasionally they will call a mobile veterinarian for their basic checkup and vaccines. But they the strays are not fixed and mate with other strays, eventually forming a pack. These remarkable dogs have taken their positions as 'Guard Dogs', using their skills and resources to survive another day.

I think to myself, how and why did dogs become domesticated and become 'man's best friend'? Was it evolution? Did they evolve from wolves? Did man domesticate wolves? Plausible. The truth is no one has the real answers. All we know is that they rely on humans today. Man bred dogs to carry out specific jobs centuries ago. Now overpopulated, homeless, and voiceless, struggling to adapt in most parts of the world, and certainly evolving. The fact is these animals are domestic, so why are they left to survive like wolves?

A wonderful, dedicated non-profit organization called P.A.W.S.(Piasau animal welfare support) developed by the expats about a year ago, is generously helping to end the abuse and struggles for these abundant, helpless, strays here in Miri, by fostering and finding homes for them. They are educating the people in Miri by encouraging them to adopt and to have their pets spayed and neutered. But it's just not enough. We need to do more. Miri needs a shelter. There are just too many of them for the Paws Organization to foster. Malaysia needs stricter laws to end abuse. Most of the strays here have a death sentence. As gut wrenching as it sounds, they are badly abused and abandoned to die a slow death.

To make matters more difficult for dogs, Muslims, which make up about one-third of the population, do not believe in killing animals for any purpose other than for food. This includes euthanizing animals. Some animals can be eaten under 'Halal' -the condition that they are slaughtered in a specified way. They do not like to touch dogs, nor have them as pets. Other locals here own dogs for a sole purpose, to guard their homes and businesses and are being kept in outdoor cages or tied up with no freedom to run around and play. They train them with bullwhips -which explains the aggressive, fearsome behavior I've encountered with dogs that have gotten loose from their chains, as I take my casual stroll, followed by full speed ahead around the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I've heard many more horror stories, including an appalling story about 'dog killers' here in Miri, who slaughter dogs to cook and eat their meat. Black dogs in particularly are considered to be a delicacy. So if you're missing a black dog here, it's probably been dognapped and on tomorrow's lunch specials. ( See 'Paws Miri' on Facebook for the full story).

Malaysia, as a whole, needs to put in place stricter laws against animal abuse. Tragically, in most cases, these wonderful creatures have no other choice but to get euthanized. But, there are still many strays that have a chance to live, to be adopted and be healed with a simple treatment from humankind. LOVE.

(Picture below is from a friend of 'Paws Miri' on Facebook)

What we can do as responsible, compassionate human beings is to have a voice for these voiceless creatures. Adopt a pet. Foster if you're able to. Have compassion for all animals and support your animal shelters and organizations as well as the ones around the world to end animal abuse once and for all.

I'm pleased to hear because of PAWS, things are changing in Miri. Expats are taking notice that more and more people here are beginning to treat their dogs more like pets. A trend is emerging. It's a slow process for everything here in Miri, and eventually we will begin to see a better future for dogs and cats. But the future never comes soon enough for those who are suffering now.

Below is a website where you can sign the petition to enforce stricter punishment for animal abuse here in Malaysia. Also, a site where you can donate to the Paws organization.