It's a doggone life for stray canines

Adrian David

KUALA TERENGGANU: It’s a doggone life for stray canines nationwide.

And it is no different in the Muslim-majority east coast state of Terengganu.

Over at the famous hawker centre at Kampung Tiong, right in the heart of the city centre, 41 traders are up in arms against the 20-odd dogs surviving on leftover food.

Hawkers say the dogs are a nuisance because of their loud barking and occasional fights over territory. They are also accused of attacking patrons at the centre, which is leased out by the Kuala Terengganu City Council (MBKT).

Kampung Tiong Hawker Centre chairman Helen Puang said some of the dogs are suffering from disease and defecated on the property.

“They are also a nuisance to the nearby Kuan Thee Than temple, the morning market and the row of hawker stalls operated by Muslims.

“We have raised the issue with the authorities but to no avail,” said Helen.

In an immediate response, MBKT’s environmental health department director Mohd Adzhar Mohd Zahari said the local authority is in a dilemma as the matter involved living beings.

"It’s a national issue and one that concerns animal cruelty.

“On one hand, we are being asked to eradicate the stray dogs and on the other, animal lovers and rights groups are against killing the animals.

“We cannot catch the stray dogs either because there would be a public outcry of animal cruelty.

“The important thing is for the public to be educated in containing the stray dog population,” he said.

Adzhar added that the stray dogs would run away at the first sight of dog catchers and that they were protected by animal activists.

“We are not allowed to shoot the dogs unless there is a clear threat to society.

“The same applies when we want to use tranquilisers. The Veterinary Department must give us clearance and only they have the authority to put the dogs to sleep,” he said.

Adzhar also called on dog owners to ensure their animals were licensed.

On efforts to spay the dogs, he said the Veterinary Department was facing financial constraints.

Meanwhile, the city’s animal lovers’ group is attempting to secure a facility to house the stray dogs and cats in Kuala Terengganu.

The group’s chairman Che Ku Ruhaya Che Ku Ali, a teacher, said that they needed an animal shelter and hoped the state government would assist by reserving a plot of land.

“There are many volunteers, including varsity undergraduates, who are willing to run the shelter.

“All we need is public funding,” said Ruhaya.

Group vice-chairman Leeanne Chua, who runs a kindergarten, said there were already dog lovers like Angeline Foo who forked out their own money to feed strays.

Leeanne said there are an estimated 500 dogs and cats in the city, including at Gong Badak, Chendering and Padang Midin. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd