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WHEN Dr Edwin Singam, a veterinarian, joined the Johor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), he heard many horrific stories about cats being doused with petrol and set alight, of fire crackers being tied to the tail of a cat, of a dog with a hole in its tongue because someone had placed a lighted cigarette against it.
Today, there are fewer of such cases of animal cruelty.
The most common complaint received by the Johor SPCA was of dogs being chained all day in the open and exposed to the elements.
Dr Edwin said the community has improved in this aspect but there is still a need to spread awareness of how to control the stray population.
I met Dr Edwin at a cat adoption programme at KIP Mart Tampoi recently. This was the third time the market in Taman Tampoi Indah, Johor Baru, organised such a campaign.
The cats being put up for adoption during the three-day event were all strays that had been caught wandering in the wet market in Taman Perling.
Dr Edwin said there is a Singaporean couple who comes in regularly to feed the stray cats in Taman Perling.
Johor SPCA, working in collaboration with another non-governmental organisation called Noah's Ark, has agreed to neuter the cats and have them re-homed.
The volunteers have agreed to neuter up to 40 strays every month for free.
Meanwhile, KIP Mart general manager Lim Han Gie said the staff have agreed to help catch the stray cats wandering around KIP Mart before handing them over to Johor SPCA.
Lim said the adoption drive had been encouraging as 47 cats were adopted on the first two days of the event.
At the cat adoption drive, Tunku Puteri Johor Tunku Tun Aminah Sultan Ibrahim, who is a cat lover, was also there to show her support.
The princess admitted to being among those who would sometimes feed stray cats.
She suggested that strays be sent to homes of senior citizens or orphanages as animals can offer many therapeutic benefits.
It is very important that a wider awareness is created so that there will be fewer cases of abandoned pets. Perhaps, more malls can emulate KIP Mart. Also, talks on caring for pets can be held in schools.
"We can judge the heart of a man or the greatness of a nation by his treatment of animals," says Mahatma Gandhi, the legendary non-violence advocate in British-ruled India.
So why are there killing of strays in public places? A municipal council recently came under fire from animal lovers when pictures of strays being killed were posted on Facebook.
The social networking site is so powerful nowadays. Any misdeed, any act of cruelty, injustice can be documented and spread at the touch of a button. And the minute something gets posted, it can be shared for the whole world to comment and act upon.
A puppy or a kitten is always cute to touch, hold and hug but please bear in mind that they are going to grow bigger. And when these pets have outgrown their cuteness, they get discarded and dumped.
Some owners conveniently abandon their pets at coffee shops, thinking that they will be able to find food there.
But at a coffee shop, there are all kinds of people. There are those who detest animals, or simply do not have any compassion or love for animals.
As a result, these animals get splashed with hot oil or boiling water.
It's a cruel world. But we must change our attitude if we want our country to progress.