Dog shooting cases by local councils – SOP or easy way out?

Ipoh dog shooting protest

Two recent animal shooting cases in Perak highlight the double standard employed in addressing cases of cruelty to animals.

In the first case, a caged monkey was killed when an 18-year-old in Sitiawan, Perak thought it was okay to shoot the animal after it failed to call him “baby sayang”.

The teenager, who allegedly used his father’s gun to shoot the monkey, claimed he did it “for fun”.

In the second case, a stray dog was shot twice by local council workers in a housing estate in Pengkalan Gate, Ipoh, Perak. A video of the incident shows two council workers, one armed with a shotgun, watching the dog bleed to death. Despite pleas by a resident to spare the dog, the emotionless council worker shoots the dog a second time, killing it instantly.

While the 18-year-old and his father were detained by police for illegally discharging a firearm, the Ipoh City Council defended its dog-shooting policy saying it was standard operating procedure. The council claimed the dog was put down following complaints it had attacked a goat and a military personnel.

The above cases are not the first (and certainly won’t be the last) of cruelty to animals, be it due to the lack of empathy or lack of common sense.

While the Animal Welfare Act 2015 penalises individuals who harm animals, the law is vague when it comes to the treatment of strays by local councils.

Section 30 of Act states no person is allowed to kill any dog, cat or any other animal by way of shooting with firearms, unless authorised by the veterinary authority during emergency or for the purpose of disease control.

This would inter alia mean these animals should only be put to sleep if there is an outbreak of disease like rabies or in the event a human life is in danger.

There is, however, a huge difference when a dog is deemed a nuisance and when it poses a danger to humans.

In the Pengkalan Gate case, a council worker had later said the dog was put to sleep as it had been chasing motorcyclists and had attacked goats belonging to villagers.

There have been numerous other cases in other localities where even dogs with licence were put to sleep by dog unit council workers.

In 2011, Spunk, a senior therapist-licensed dog, was shot by Ipoh City Council workers. The case caused an uproar and the council said it would stop shooting strays. However, months later, there was a case of council workers barging into a condominium to shoot a dog which had allegedly barked at off-duty nurses.

In 2017, a dog in Rompin was shot despite having a collar. The Rompin District Council later admitted it shot the dog during a culling exercise to prevent the spread of rabies as the dog was wandering in public space without the supervision of its owner.

A spokesperson from the council was reported as saying its bylaws allow for “any dog, licensed or not, whose owner cannot be found, to be shot on the council’s instruction, or by anyone who the council gives such power to”.

Unfortunately, the task to eradicate strays has always been that of local councils. Often, these councils claim they find it difficult to trap a stray. Tranquilisers can only be administered by the Department of Veterinary Services. And we all know how co-ordination between government department works.

When the Animal Welfare Act 2015 was passed, it was deemed necessary to accord better welfare protection for animals, unlike the low penalties for animal abuse under the Animal Act 1953.

So which law prevails? Are local councils bound by their bylaws or is Section 30 of the Animal Welfare Act 2015 applicable to these councils?

A clear set of rules is needed to govern this issue. Otherwise, the killing of animals will continue – be it by council workers or individuals.