Suicide's Collar


I live in a relatively modern (and new) neighbourhood in the heart of Petaling Jaya. Surrounded by 2 major highways (the LDP and the NKVE), I am also in the vicinity of the posh housing area of Aman Suria and the greens of Tropicana Golf & Country Resort a stone’s throw away. But right next to me, there’s also this often overlooked village called Kg Cempaka …

Wait, before we go there, let me get to the beginning of today’s article.

In my previous article, I gave a brief commentary on the sort of laws we have in our country to prevent animal cruelty. To that end, I spoke about the “lack of bite” that accompanies such laws and the grave need for reform in order to make the sanctions for committing such heinous crimes commensurate with the atrocity of the same.

Let’s continue with this premise and advance the argument further. Let’s hypothesise: say we are successful in getting ourselves heard. Say our lawmakers succeed in pushing through stringent measures and enough safeguards against animal cruelty to make any 1st world country proud. Say those laws are then gazetted and consequently set in stone as one of the laws of the land. The question is: then what?

Would we actually see meaningful change in how our furry friends are treated? Would the tides of fortune change (for the better) for pets and strays alike? Would the general welfare of animals in Malaysia finally improve as a whole?

I am no owner of a crystal ball but I think a safe prediction to the aforesaid questions would most likely be a “no”, “no” and “no”. For the immediate future, at least. I am not a pessimist, but let us be realistic too. A law can only be as strong as the wills of those enacting it are.

In simpler terms, having strong laws against animal cruelty mean very little if there is no genuine or sustained effort to ensure that it is wielded fully. The law is not a living thing, but merely a vehicle for society to drive itself around in. The letter of the law needs proper enforcement for life to be breathed into it. If society at large does not wholeheartedly embrace (and enforce) such laws with conviction and vigour, animal cruelty laws would be as useful as a lifejacket in the desert.

And for society to embrace and enforce such laws, the attitude of its people must change for the better. Sadly, present times have shown that there are a lot of ‘sick’ people who have blended in unassumingly in society. These ‘sick’ people rank amongst those who would have no qualms to cause or inflict actual harm or pain against a living, breathing animal. An even smaller (but far more worrisome) sub-division of this group would be those ‘sicker’ individuals who perpetuate such harm or pain because it gives them a sense of pleasure or satisfaction in doing so.

You sometimes hear or read (much to your personal regret as you then are unable to sleep that night) of people who would throw yelping dogs into sewer manholes “just for laughs” or stall owners who would drench scalding hot water on stray cats who “dirty” their shop surroundings by just passing through looking for scraps of food.

These are not figments of active imaginations or people living in faraway lands. These are people around you. They could be your neighbour, your relative (good grief) or even a friend (greater grief). The worrying thing about all this isn’t the fact that such people exist. No, matters get truly worrying when you realise that you have done (and will do) nothing to stop them.

If the situation was flipped and it was an innocent young boy or an elderly grandmother getting beaten up or attacked, expect all Hell to break loose. There would be the usual outrage, outcry and sometimes retribution or revenge that will swiftly follow. The full brunt of the law (or sometimes outlaws) would be meted on the perpetrators as society generally frowns upon uncalled for brutality against its own kind. Simply put, it has been hard-wired into our attitudes that you simply cannot go around physically hurting another fellow human being without (justifiable) cause or reason.

However, when the victims are nameless and are supposedly lower life forms like dogs or cats, society have been known to spontaneously develop “mass blind eye syndrome”. “They’re just animals, no big deal” seem to be a prevalent attitude majority of people take when confronted with animal abuse. This, together with the “it’s not my problem” and “I have bigger things to worry about [e.g. keeping a job, finding love, chasing a career, etc]” results in animal abuse cases often being ignored, overlooked or not made a big deal out of. How good would animal cruelty laws be when cases go unreported or when too many people could not be bothered to comply with the provisions within the same?

That is why having good laws to prevent animal cruelty is only a quarter of the battle won. The large part of the war depends on the attitudes of the people. And there is no better place to start than to look at the man in the mirror. Yup, as Michael Jackson’s song sagely reminds us, if you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change. Such a powerful message contained within such simple lines. It may sound a tad obvious, the message, but seriously ask yourself, when was the last time you truly did something for an animal in need?

Disclaimer: I know there are many great Samaritans out there who regularly pour out (quite literally) their wallets, hearts and souls into animal welfare, support and care. These people are exempt from this article. Instead, this article targets the fence-sitters and the halfway-there’s. Yes, there are lots of animal lovers out there, like yours truly (shamefully so) who love animals and who wish they had a better life … yet, actually don’t do much about it.

As I was driving back from work today, something mundane which I witnessed gave me full realisation (and an epiphany for the title of today’s topic).

Every day on my way back to my condo, I would pass the tiny Chinese kampong settlement (which I introduced above) called Kg Cempaka. Now, Kg Cempaka is commonly known to be populated by lower income, uneducated village folks living on the fringes of modernised suburbs eking out a living as mechanics, plumbers, handyman and odd-job workers. Most of them can hardly converse in BM or English and most of their children start riding bikes illegally and in groups of 4 at a time from the age of 7 or 8 onwards.

There’s this really dangerous bend along the windy road passing by Kg Cempaka which becomes pitch black at night and extremely dangerous when cars corner around it too fast. Coincidentally, there’s this bunch of stray dogs living around that area that loves to just sleep right at the tip of the bend, as if their lifelong ambitions were to be roadkill.

Especially braver (or stupider) is this one laidback, black dog whose favourite slumber spot happens to be on the freaking road itself. She belongs to a pack of strays fed by the village folk that would forage and roam the foodie areas in the day and then return to the bank of the road when they call it a night. Some who are used to that area call her Suicide (in an obvious reference to her favourite pastime).

Perhaps it was one too many close calls for the kampung folk fond of her, but today as I drove past the road, I was (pleasantly) surprised and amused that Suicide was wearing a collar fitted with neon LED flashing lights. She looked like a cross between a clown and a weird UFO. It was a funny yet touching sight. There she was, a black stray dog dozing peacefully by the side of the road with lights flashing around her neck. A simple idea, an even simpler (though fashionably questionable) contraption, but a gesture so thoughtful that it may end up ensuring Suicide lives a full and happy life thinking she is king of the road.

The garish collar on Suicide was an epiphany of sorts. Who would have thought supposedly uneducated, lower incomed, simple village folk like the kind souls from Kg Cempaka would put millions of upper crust or posh city or suburban folks (like yours truly again) to shame with just a simple act of kindness?

Suicide’s collar is probably no big deal to the well-meaning kid (or adult) of Kg Cempaka who looped it around her neck. It probably doesn’t even cost much. However, that one act alone proves that you do not need to sacrifice entire weekends or paychecks if you are not able to. Because that one act alone proves that any form of assistance, no matter how small or ridiculous looking, is better than not doing anything at all.

Suicide’s collar was a wake-up call to me and to those wishing for a change in attitude towards animal care in this country. Suicide’s collar is a timely reminder to the silent majority (again, myself included) that they ought to begin any change with the man in the mirror first.

It’s time to stop all the wishing and talking and start with taking more active steps towards improving the welfare of Malaysian animals. There are a handful of selfless souls out there who work tirelessly to better the lives of animals. On the other end of the spectrum are those ‘sick’ people who do the exact opposite for animal welfare.

Then right in the centre, in the middle of it all, lies the biggest group of all: the in-between-ers. We are the majority who could swing the tide of change if we all were to make a change today. So let’s all begin that journey of a thousand miles with but a single neon LED flashing light dog collar.

p.s. – If there are any Kg Cempaka folks reading this article right now, I salute you.



Yu Jian

ONG YU JIAN is a lawyer by profession (in Messrs Raj, Ong & Yudistra), animal lover by passion. He is a 30 year old Penangite who loves football, movies, music and having a pint or two and a laugh with the lads at the pub. A staunch believer that all men and animals were created equal, he believes in the power of the scribe (or keyboard) to give voice to the segment of community that cannot speak up.

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