“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi
THE SARAWAK SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) celebrates it 55th year in 2017. The Sarawak SPCA’s mission is to act as an advocate on behalf of animals and as an enforcer of their rights; to provide for the well-being of the animals of the State of Sarawak who are abandoned, injured, subjected to unfair or cruel treatment, or otherwise in need; to cultivate in the people of our community an awareness of the animals whose world we share; to promote a bond of mutual assistance between people and animals; and to instill respect for and appreciation of all living things.
The SSPCA finds its greatest challenge is changing the public mindset on how to allow the animals to live with the dignity they deserve. We strive to create greater awareness about animal welfare, to inculcate a greater respect for the animals that live with and around us, from our own pets in our homes, to the strays that wander homeless, and the birds and other animals that live in the environment surrounding us.
What defines ‘cruelty to animals’? Many people are actually ignorant of what actually is defined as cruelty under the Laws of Sarawak (Chapter 32, part VIII, Veterinary Public Health Ordinance 1999/2008). Any person who cruelly beats, kicks, ill-treats, or tortures, any animal – these are the more obvious forms of cruelty. But also, ‘any person who neglects to supply such animal with sufficient food or water’, or ‘causes unnecessary pain or suffering’ is also breaking the law. ‘An owner shall be deemed to have permitted cruelty to animals if he fails to exercise reasonable care and supervision in respect of the protection of the animal.’ These are all stated in the law.
And what is the penalty for cruelty? Currently it is a fine not exceeding two thousand ringgit or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both such fine and imprisonment. When Sarawak adopts the new Malaysian Animal Welfare Act 2015, the penalty goes up to a minimum of RM20,000 and not more than RM100,000 or imprisonment for a term not more than three years or both.
In SSPCA’s experience of investigating public complaints, we have found that most of the cases are just pure ignorance and a lack of common sense. People keep their dogs in cages so small they can’t even stand up properly, or the cages are placed next to their gate under the hot noon sun and through our tropical rain storms. We advise them to move the cages under a shaded area, and that the animals must be let out to run and exercise. They would be able to keep a better watch on your property if they were allowed to run all around it!
All animals must be allowed their five freedoms –
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
2. Freedom from Discomfort
3. Freedom from pain, Injury or Disease
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress
We need to love and respect our animals and environment in the same way we love and respect our families and friends and fellow creatures.
Datin Dona Drury Wee is the President of Sarawak SPCA and works to create a greater understanding of animal welfare. She is also the President of the Sarawak Eurasian Association, Chairman of the Trefoil Guild Girl Guides Sarawak, Committee member of Friends of Sarawak Museum, Chairman of Kelab Mirage and heads the Culinary Heritage Committee under MoTAC.