Brunei Man's Best Friend?

A couple of weeks ago, there was this long debate in the media about what to do about stray dogs in this country sparked by dogs attacking a little boy incident. The debate spilled over to the comment box on this blogsite. I refrained from writing as both LSM and Maurina already did beautiful pieces about it and Unharm6187 wrote a few paragraphs worth about it in the comment box (I am surprised you did not post one on your site?)

A couple of days ago, I came across the minutes of the meetings that were held by the taskforce to look into the problems of stray dogs. I wasn't at the meeting so I can't give first hand accounts of what happened but can only based on what I read. Contrary to what the public think about the government, the amount of attention that was paid to be both ethical and humanitarian was clearly evident from the discussions. That's a plus point but there was no mention of a long term solution yet such as the building of animal shelters which were clamoured by some sections of the public. But then there has only been 2 meetings, so there are clearly many more meetings to go through. As Maurina said, more pacings need to be done.

I remembered many years ago, I was once a deputy Postmaster General, taking over from the incumbent as he went on haj leave for about a month. The Postmaster General is responsible for all the postal services in this country, the millions of letters and parcels sent and delivered and the running of all the post offices throughout the country. My job as the acting number 2 was to ensure that the administration and the management of all these functions function well. One issue that I came across was dogs - both the stray kind and the ones that acted as security guards. Dogs are territorial animals. Postmen and meter readers have been attacked by dogs, unfortunately dogs bite postmen happen so often that it becomes unnewsworthy as opposed to dogs bite children stories which becomes sensationalised. In Brunei, dogs have chased postmen and sometimes bite them and you don't get to hear about them.

What happens if postmen are unable to deliver letters because of dogs? If it is a guard dog, normally the department will try to deliver a letter saying that no more letters will be delivered until the dogs are under control. That warning letter can sometimes be difficult to deliver, so it becomes a Catch 22 situation. But the owners normally come and complain why they never receive letters, so they get all the letters at once when they come in and the warning letter as well. However stray dogs are treated differently. In those days, the district authorities will be informed and workers with blowpipes will come in and you know the rest.

I am not a lover of dogs, I have had my share of being chased by dogs when I was a child and I certainly didn't provoke them - I just happened to come across them, so I don't buy the theory that the dogs have to be provoked before they chase and bite you. However I do realise that they are the Al-Mighty's creatures too and they are here for a reason on this earth. We should however also realise the consequences of dogs and the possibility of dogs aggression. In America, according to the, there are almost 5 million victims annually -- about 2% of the entire population. 800,000 need medical attention. 1,000 per day need treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Between 15 and 20 die per year. Most of the victims who receive medical attention are children, half of whom are bitten in the face. Dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year, with $345 million paid by insurance. So, dog attacks are more common than you think and is quite costly to the economy.

What can we do in Brunei? Dogs are required to be licensed in Brunei under the Dogs Act. If they are not licensed, the authorities can come and take the dogs away and the owners can be fined. However that raised its own problems. It does cost money to register and no one knows where to register one anyway. I have yet to find out who does the registering. Unfortunately there is no penalty if the irresponsible owners who after getting weary of their dogs decided to let them go and these dogs became feral dogs. These dogs can become very dangerous as they are no longer domesticated. There are talks that the government should set up animal shelters but it has been pointed out that may not be on in this country. There are no brownie points for doing it. The only way is to get the private sector involved. Would anyone be willing to set one up?

Clearly, the taskforce still has lots of work to do and plenty of pacing. My colleague who is chairing it certainly has to balance between the needs of the safety of the public and the needs of the animal lovers. It ain't easy, as they say when man's best friend can become man's worst enemy.


p o t a t o said…

Didn't cross my mind I should write it in my blog.

Anonymous said…
I'm glad the relevant authorities are looking into the stray animal problem.

As Bruneians and especially as Muslims we should regard the matter with high importance and in my opinion, we should start reviewing the present legislation in order to find an a suitably humane solution.

Even in ancient times, animals were protected according to the extent of their benefit to man and during past decades; this principle has developed into what is called: “animal protection on an ethical basis”.

Such protection is provided not only from an economic point of view, but also from taking animals into consideration as living creatures and not just as inanimate beings; man recognizes that animals can feel pain and suffering.

Man perceived he not only has rights over animals but that he is also under a moral obligation towards them. According to that obligation, laws was enacted including, on the one hand, the animal’s right of life to enjoy health and safety without being subjected to injury or suffering, and on the other hand, the economic interests of human beings and public health requirements.

If we take a quick view throughout history until the present time, we find that cruelty to animals existed and still exists in different ways. Animals still suffer from ill treatment: they are killed in inhumane ways, and they are hunted by all kind of means, including traps for human enjoyment and for ornamental items. The foregoing is not limited to wild animals but involves also the domestic ones, something which is unacceptable by all religions and morals.

All religions and civilizations have tried, in different ways, to strike an equitable balance concerning the mutual rights and duties between man and animals. Unfortunately, sometimes such endeavors are not considered seriously either by the competent authorities or by common people.

From my research (pls correct me if I'm wrong), Shari’a (Islamiyyah) has its own specific rules which concern the care and compassion for animals, as well as for all human beings. Shari’a demonstrated that these living creatures do, just as man, feel pain, fear and love.

The Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) said: “Whoever has pity even for a little bird, will have mercy upon him by God on the Day of Resurrection”.

The Prophets’ companions and early Muslims always took care of animals as an aspect of Islamic teachings. Islam forbids causing bodily harm to animals.

It was related that Jabir Ibn Abd Allah said that the Messenger of God passed by an ass (donkey) branded in his face, with it’s nostrils fuming, had said: “God’s curse be upon who did that, you mustn’t brand the face, nor strike the face with your hand”.

Also, Islam orders the owner of animals to take care of them and spend money for them and not to hurt them. Besides, Islam puts everyone under obligation not to assume a passive attitude towards an animal which is suffering, or which needs to be defended.

It was related that the Messenger of God said, “There is a reward for helping animals; indeed, there is a reward for helping any living thing”.

Regarding the killing or slaughtering of an animal (even dogs), Islam advises human beings to do it in the least harmful way. The Prophet said: “If you must kill, kill without torture”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also forbade to castrate male animals in order to improve live stock. “God also prohibited cutting off any part of the animal while it was still alive”

It was stated that Abd Allah Ibn Abbas said that the Messenger of God forbade setting animals against each other6 and to cause dissension among them to fight, injure and kill one another.

Also, the Prophet prohibited the use of animals as a target in games and races by shooting animals until death, which is called ‘Mathola’ or ‘Sabra’.
Anonymous said…
Maybe it's best to put stray dogs to sleep. Many of my non muslim friends agree. I watched a documentary on discovery about stray cats. Cats actually get feline aids, leukaemia etc. If only their owners did not dump them, their lives would be better.

Stray animals just end up as road kill.
Anonymous said…
i agree with u Mr BR, however, i saw some debate on the comment box that dogs are never dangerous and will only attack when provoked is totally wrong. Certain dogs r known to attack, they r not all perfect. Thats why there should be dog collars and dog catchers in order to keep strays in check and minimise the danger they might cause.

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