Saturday, July 20, 2024
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Brunei Town

Out of sight, out of mind

Adib Noor

After over 20 years of rescuing, securing homes for and nesting thousands of strays, it appears that the challenge faced by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in controlling the exponential growth of strays continues to linger.

This was highlighted by Care and Actions for Strays (CAS) co-founder Ada Ang, a passionate and dedicated defender of stray animals.

“Despite the countless efforts over the years, there has been no reduction in the number of strays in the Sultanate,” she stressed.

The issue of urban strays is one that warrants concern. Aside from impacting society in the aspects of safety and hygiene, these abandoned animals are also subjected to endless suffering from persistent hunger, thirst, disease, and in some instances, cruelty.

With these issue persisting, four local NGOs – CAS, Sejahtera Community, PawsUp and Love Paws Sanctuary – as well as other similar organisations continue to play their part in showing humanity and compassion to these strays.

“Sadly, instead of stabilising the situation, the stray population continues to grow, making it virtually beyond our control. If a new approach is not employed, we expect to see the situation spiral out of control,” said Ada.

FROM LEFT: Ada Ang of CAS, Jay Lau of PawsUp, Nurul of Paws Society and Pengiran Nooraini binti Pengiran A Damit of Sejahtera Community. PHOTO: ADIB NOOR

The co-founder explained that awareness plays a cardinal role in bringing change.

“The root cause of the problem is animal owners who do not neuter their pets, dumping them when the situation become unmanageable. We hope laws and regulations will be introduced to discourage individuals from callously dumping unwanted pets. The dumped animals include the sick ones, helpless newborns, pregnant females, nursing females and of late, dogs with the canine transmissible venereal tumours (CVTV),” she said.

The NGOs and stakeholders are calling on the authorities to enact or improvise existing laws to prosecute “animal dumpers”.

“Appropriate legal actions against perpetrators will deter and significantly reduce animal dumping. People should not act on a whim when it comes to getting a pet. They must bear in mind that the pet must be cared for its entire lifetime,” Ada said.

“Indiscriminate dumping of trash is a crime. These callous animal dumpers obviously treat unwanted animals like trash. Should they not be prosecuted under the same act as illegal dumping of rubbish?” Ada asked.

The “relocation” of stray dogs by pest control companies was another issue highlighted.

“These strays are caught, left unneutered and relocated to faraway places – including dense forested areas – to ensure they are unable to find their way back. The Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuala Belait Highway, Tutong, Lugu, Lalit, Lumut, Dadap, Jerudong, Muara, Meragang and Lumut Anduki Beach are popular drop off points.

“Essentially it is a death sentence, of the most horrific sort. They are cut off from their food and water source, and shelter, destined for starvation, dehydration, hypothermia or to end up as road kills.

“Relocation to human inhabited areas such as industrial parks and NGO feeding sites will upset the socio dynamics, resulting in fights between the new and existing pack of dogs who are, by nature, territorial. Even if they are eventually accepted by the pack, they will start to breed and increase the population. That would mean all neutering efforts by NGOs to stabilise the numbers would have been made in vain, with the whole cycle repeating.

“Relocation is not a sustainable solution. It only migrates the problem and creates a temporary vacuum, only to be filled by another pack of dogs in no time,” Ada said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the only way forward is to trap, neuter and release the dogs back to their original site, where they will hold the territory. Breeding dogs will not be allowed to enter. Over time, as this process is repeated throughout the country, the stray population will dwindle.

This sustainable solution, however, requires that society be tolerant and patient.

“Results cannot be achieved overnight. However, it is the only proven effective sustainable solution. The urban stray problem is not an animal problem, not an NGO problem, not the government’s problem. It is a societal problem that must be resolved by all. It requires that everyone plays a role – even if that role is merely to exercise patience and tolerance,” she said.

NGOs have been working tirelessly – some for decades – to help manage the growing stray population issue, exhausting their limited resources, avenues and hopes on a daily basis.

Without change, it would be near impossible for NGOs to keep up the pace.

“It takes weeks, even months to catch a newly dumped animal, who may in that time have given birth to a litter of eight or more pups. We will never achieve a stray free society with the status quo. The NGOs cannot do this alone. All stakeholders must come together to solve the problem. Only then will we have a chance of becoming stray free,” Ada added.