Friday, April 04, 2008

Dying To Be Rescued

Scenes of starvation and death greeted tourists who signed up for horse riding on the beach while enjoying their holiday in Sabah, Malaysia.

The tourists had visited the Melinsung ranch located 20 mins South of Kota Kinabalu to sign up for the activity. What they found left them sickened. Starving and weak horses, some unable to stand, were kept in dirty paddocks and stables in and around the ranch. The horses had skin diseases, open wounds and infected sores, and there were reports of many dead and dying horses.

The tourists reported the distressing scenes to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in June 2007. Photos of the sick animals, posted on a forum in New Zealand, also reached WSPA, which quickly contacted its member society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Selangor, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to pressure the authorities to do something about the situation.

The SPCA reported the problem to the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) in Sabah through the central DVS in Kuala Lumpur. The DVS enforces Malaysia’s animal protection law, and visited the horrific site in June 2007 (and a follow up visit January 2008), and decided it would simply monitor the case and work with the owner to improve the conditions of the horses. The owner of the Ranch is Datuk Abdul Ghani Rashid, ex-Mayor of Kota Kinabalu. When the DVS visited the ranch in June there were 70 horses. Now latest reports from SPCA Representative Sue Quek, state that “There are only around 30 left and animals are still suffering and dying.”

The SPCA was hoping the horses would be confiscated, and offered its help. But now SPCA officers say they’re devastated nothing appears to have been done, and the animals were apparently being offered for sale.

“SPCA has urged DVS Sabah to act quickly to alleviate the suffering of the pitiful horses and push for prosecution,” says Christine Chin, SPCA Selangor Chairman.

Sue Quek said: "The DVS has the power to confiscate animals from owners and to prosecute for animal cruelty under the CRUELTY TO ANIMALS (PREVENTION) ORDINANCE (Sabah Cap.31) 1968 law that says it is an offence to cause 'unnecessary suffering' to animals. In July 2007, the SPCA stood by with resources and skills to save these horses and rehabilitate them and send them on to loving caring homes. But our offer was not taken up."

“We heard in January 2008 that the horses were in a worse condition, more were dead and others that couldn’t stand were being sold for meat. We believe the DVS provided feed for the horses but it appears very little improvement in their condition has been achieved,” says Dawn Peacock, Member Society Manager for WSPA.

“We have heard that DVS Putrajaya visited the ranch recently and that DVS Sabah are in the process of removing the horses, but we have not received official confirmation from them. We hope that DVS Sabah will act to confiscate the remaining horses quickly, to prevent more horses from suffering and death – any more delays in action would result in a tragic loss of innocent lives. We certainly hope that DVS will prosecute the owner of the Ranch for causing unnecessary suffering.” continues Quek.

This case once again highlights the SPCA’s campaign to increase the penalty for persons found guilty of animal cruelty. The Animals Act 1953 states that a person guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animals will be fined RM200.00 or sent to prison for six months or both.
“A fine of RM 200, whilst princely in the 1950’s when the law was introduced, is paltry by today’s standards and is not a deterrent, even if it was charged for each animal in a case such as this. We have been lobbying the Government to increase the fine and jail sentence, and also impose lifetime-bans on pet ownership for persons found guilty of animal abuse,” Chin added.
"When people are cruel to animals they will be cruel to one another"- Herbert N. Casson
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