Get to know animal welfare laws in Malaysia and how to report abuse.
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Eateries being cruel to stray animals and neighbours keeping their pets perpetually chained are some common sights in urban Malaysia. But how many times have we made the effort to report it?
Reporting animal abuse is actually easier than you might think. It just takes getting to know the agencies involved and recognising basic forms of animal cruelty.
That being said, most people are unaware of the laws surrounding animal welfare in the country, and one of the possible reasons for this is the fact that it was largely unchanged since 1953 up until recently.
So let’s get to know the recent updates, and hopefully it encourages more people to stand up for the welfare of animals that we come across.
(Contact details at bottom of story)
Animal Welfare Act 2015
The Animal Welfare Act 2015 came into effect in July 2017, and among the most applauded inclusions to the law is the minimum fine of RM20,000 against animal abuse.
Which is a huge increase compared to the older Animals Act 1953 that punished perpetrators of animal cruelty with a mere RM200 fine (this was amended in 2013 to a maximum fine of RM50,000).
For some perspective, that limiting older penalty had in 2011 saw a pet boarding business that abandoned over 300 cats in their premises walk away with an RM6,000 fine and three months in prison despite being charged with 30 counts of neglect and causing the deaths of eight cats.
The new law also expanded the definitions of cruelty to not just mean physical abuse, but to also include poor upkeep, improper restraint methods, insufficient shelter conditions and abandonment, among others.
The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), the government agency enforcing this law, announced at the time that 400 enforcement officers were appointed across the country.
And while management of strays still fall under the purview local councils, actual physical abuse of stray animals should still be reported to the DVS.
Addressing ignorance with education
One of the people who participated in the lobbying for new laws and drafting of the Animal Welfare Act is Kelvin Cheah from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Selangor.
One of SPCA Selangor’s inspectors, he has participated in his fair share of investigations and is optimistic of DVS’s enforcement efforts.
“The new law provides a more updated punishment,” Kelvin says.
“Now it is important to spread awareness on the importance of reporting animal abuse so that it can act as a deterrent.”
Kelvin explains that getting people to file reports against abusers has been a longstanding issue, pointing to a culture of avoiding conflict and confrontation.
However, he assures that identities of complainants are never revealed to the offender.
He further advises to make a report even if it is a small case. And that if a complainant feels going to the DVS directly is intimidating, they could go through SPCA Selangor.
Having provided supplementary support to the DVS within Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, Kelvin says that more often than not, smaller cases have been overcome by educating the offender.
“Luckily for us, over 70% of the cases we’ve seen have actually improved after educating the offending pet owner,” says Kelvin.
“For example, some people keep their dogs chained because they don’t know how to control certain undesirable behaviour. But if we can help them identify the source of the problem and offer a solution, they will likely try to change.
“It’s mostly really just ignorance, misconception and misunderstanding.”
Report it if you see it
In 2017, the DVS received 510 animal cruelty complaints. Kelvin shares that 468 cases have been reported this year so far up until September.
“Since the Animal Welfare Act, the enforcement has become more active. If you lodge the report, you can expect DVS to update you within a week,” he says.
Kelvin advises for reports to include: type of abuse witnessed, when it occurred, how long it has been occurring, and the type of animal that is involved. Pictures and video of the abuse would help, especially in cases of physical abuse.
Here are the channels for submitting animal abuse complaints to the DVS:
1. The DVS complaints direct email address can be found here
2. The dedicated DVS Whatsapp line dedicated to reporting abuse is : 019-2242233
3. The full list of DVS offices by state and their contact details can be found here
4. DVS also has a mobile app for Android phones to submit complaints
If you live in Selangor or KL and would like the assistance of SPCA Selangor, report on the animal in distress here.