WHEN the parent thinks that no one is in the house down the street where two dogs live, he stops his car outside the house, winds down the window and lets his angelic looking three-year-old scream at the dogs. She turns furious when the dogs do not respond, the father then drives right up to the gate to provoke the dogs. As the homeowner, what would you do? By the time one opens the gate or walks out, the car zooms off. Each day this repeats until the homeowner moves.
Down the road, a little girl walking to the playground with her grandmother picks up a stone and throws it into a house in an attempt to hit the dogs who were quietly eating their dinner in the garden. After being told that it was unacceptable behaviour, she turns up a few days later with a stick instead.
The neighbourhood children, who range from primary aged kids to teens, find it entertaining to stand outside houses to scream at pet dogs, so much so, the dogs recognise the bullies and when they pass by the house, the dogs get agitated and bark or are scared because the kids have thrown things at them. It's sad because if the kids would only get to know the dogs – they would be friends.
While my two dogs are not perfect (the postman will vouch for their craziness when he drops by), they now bark at the kids who have targeted them.
Once a 12-year-old who torments my dogs was found hanging like Spider-Man on the walled fence. Curious at his behaviour, I asked what he was doing, he replied "Tengok aje (Just looking)." I have come home to sticks, stones, firecracker debris and the like in my driveway. The first irony is that my dog thinks that they are all toys to be collected in a pile. The second irony is that the security cameras pick up these shenanigans, yet nothing can be done.
Parents are too busy to deal with their bully kids because mistreating animals especially dogs in this country is not seen as a problem and some venerate it.
Once a grandparent laughed and said, they are just playing, it's OK. No it's not OK, it is never OK.
This grandma's comments reminded me of a recent incident when I was on holiday and a friend had her sweet little friendly dog on a leash when a little boy holding his father's hand exclaimed: "Look, Puppy Dog!" He then walked up to the happy pooch and kicked the dog. His father just pulled him and walked away.
We were so angry. Immediately alarm bells rang in my mind and I thought, this child was growing up a bully and his parents were not even addressing the issue.
What and who will he kick next?
Many use religious beliefs for the basis of excusing animal abuse, yet it is a matter of faith that we be kind to animals and there is moral significance to look after those without a voice. Sadly, however, in this country the bullies are not just the children but the grown men who go scot-free for killing dogs with a bow and arrow, the municipality workers who brutally kill strays, the father who points out dogs and tells his kids that dogs are evil instead of teaching his kids not to harm animals and the women who smile and do nothing when their children stand outside houses and bark at dogs. Once there was an elderly woman who was stomping and lunging outside my gate trying to make the dogs bark but instead they just lay looking confused at her behaviour.
While it is commendable that in 2008, Malaysia endorsed the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, declarations are just that – a statement with no bite when violated. Not only does Malaysia need the Animal Welfare Bill to be enacted soon, animal welfare officers recruited need to be passionate about rights for all animals and be trained accordingly. It's sad that only when there are laws with big fines do people pay attention but that is the reality. So once the bill is passed, regulations need to be refined to ensure that violators no matter who they may be are persecuted and also educated.
While these processes are put in order, animal rights education should simultaneously be taught in schools and incorporated practically in religious and moral lessons. To educate the public, government-run campaigns highlighting our duty to treat animals with kindness should be carried out to undo the strong belief and teaching commending animal abuse especially dog abuse.
There is a strong link between bullying helpless beings and harming humans.
We have become so phobic to the point of cruelty. We deny the blind increased mobility by banning guide dogs.
How then can we call ourselves a society when we stop access for the blind because the so called able-bodied are too disabled in thinking to go past preconceptions and misconceptions.
Mahatma Gandhi has been quoted as saying "the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated". If there is truth in Gandhi's words, then we have a long way to go.