Malaysiakini Letter

Pets can help prevent some deaths

Anthony Thanasayan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (Petpositive) welcomes the recent open discussions in the media on suicide, its causes and how to prevent it. We believe that one of the best ways to address this usually taboo topic in our society is for more people talk about it and bring it out in the open.

As a newly-registered society which firmly believes in the power of meaningful companionship with animals for a higher quality of life and positive living, we would like to suggest animal - assisted therapy (AAT) as a stress and depression buster.

The bond between humans and other animals has untold benefits especially among the disabled and elderly populations. Animals have assisted human persons in profound ways such as improving a patient's cognitive or physical functioning (usually from a one-on-one relationship) to enhancing a person's sense of well-being and reducing loneliness.

Proximity with animals such as touching and caring for them helps to bring about positive reinforcement in people's lives. We know of elderly and disabled people and others in Malaysia who, through their successful partnerships with animals, now have less need for medication, have much calmer personalities and have cut down on suicide attempts.

Bonding with pets has also helped pet-lovers achieve other goals such as improving communication, building trust, decreasing stress and anxiety and perhaps most important of all, motivating themselves. All of which are some of the negative factors that drive people to suicide. Pets are also inexpensive and more accessible to everyone.

Having said all these, those considering taking on a pet must realise that keeping an animal is a lifetime responsibility to the pet, neighbours and the laws that govern pet-keeping.

On a related matter, PetPositive strongly regrets the opinions expressed by Jason Baker , Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong in his letter Eng may be an 'animal hoarder.

We are disappointed to note that whilst Peta was quick to point its finger at Eng, the organisation, which professes to champion the 'ethical treatment of animals' did not equally take to task the extreme action of the Seremban local council to turn Eng's home compound and living room into a bloody orgy of destruction when its officers entered and gunned down his 13 canines instead of finding a kind, humane and non-violent way out of the problem.

To imply that Eng Her Sun was the cause of the death of his dogs as a result of an underlying 'animal hoarding' problem is to further add salt to his wounds. The shooting has shell-shocked and outraged many Malaysians and the world.

(Incidentally, Petpositive's veterinarian had met up with Eng as well as his own animal doctor to confirm that the victim's dogs were kept in the best of health and and not abused as Peta tried to insinuate.)

It is a pity that Baker's observation, from his high chair in Hong Kong, chose to only see a negative side in Eng and his animals rather than a positive one. We refer to the therapeutic role and symbiotic relationship in which he and his sister shared with their animals.

Eng, and his sister whom he lives with, are almost in their sixties. As people age, issues such as loneliness, lack of self-esteem and the fear of disability and death become an unavoidable factor.

However with the Engs, it was obvious that caring for their pets - which they describe as their children - gave them a sense of usefulness, purpose and satisfaction in their lives by giving a home to unwanted animals, nursing and caring for them.

With such sensitivities at play, one can only imagine the state of shock and utter devastation they suffered in having to watch the animals - their children - that they worked so hard raise die a gruesome death in front of the gunmen.

Petpositive calls for an immediate ban on dog shooting throughout the nation.

The writer is president, Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (PetPositive).

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