BUTTERWORTH, Malaysia - The state government does not support the shooting of stray dogs as a measure to reduce their population in Penang.
Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy said the Penang Island and Seberang Prai municipal councils were not encouraged to kill the animals because it was cruel.
He said the public, especially those who are animal lovers, would object against such an act.
"The state does not agree with killing strays. Even the councils do not want to do it because it is inhumane.
"No dog should be destroyed unless it is absolutely necessary to put the animal down, like it has rabies, for instance," he said last Saturday.
Ramasamy urged the people to emulate a group of Taman Prai residents, who had come together to save and neuter stray dogs in their area by forming Mercy, which stood for Member of Emergency Rescue and Care for Young Puppies, in November last year.
The group, which works closely with the Save Our Strays (SOS) group and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP), has set up the Prai Mercy Rehabilitation Centre for Neglected Dogs in Taman Prai at a small Indah Water Consortium premises belonging to the state government.
The centre, the first of its kind in Penang that was initiated by residents, functions as a temporary shelter for puppies and also as a quarantine facility for adult dogs that are caught and spayed before they are released.
Ramasamy said the state government would support and assist the group, adding that hopefully other residential areas would also start their own rehabilitation centres for homeless dogs.
Turaisingam Mahasingam, one of the pioneers of the centre, said there were now 11 puppies there and so far, 42 adult dogs had been spayed.
He said the stray population was a problem in many places but the cruel handling and killing was not a good solution to the issue. "If the authorities catch and destroy the animals, animal rights groups will protest.
"If the authorities do not do anything, some members of the public will complain.
"To address this issue, better awareness of the problem, spaying the homeless animals, finding them a proper shelter and putting them up for adoption are a more positive solution," he said.
Turaisingam added that with the centre functioning like a mini community dog pound, complaints of strays rummaging garbage bins for food, sleeping in front of houses, chasing children and others would also be addressed.
Johnson Sinnapen and Lee Eng Leong, who are also pioneering Mercy members, said many people complained about stray dogs simply because they disliked them and did not understand the problem.
"The stray dog issue is a human problem...many people abandon their dogs when they can't handle them or when the animals are sick," said Lee.
Those who wish to help the rehabilitation centre can donate funds or serve as a Mercy volunteer.
Items like rice, old newspapers, soup powder and buckets are also welcomed.