Mariam Mokhtar: Dogs have nothing to do with Covid-19…


The hatred shown by ‘dog lovers

Anthony Thanasayan -February 18, 2020 10:10 AM

I was shocked with utter disbelief to read how some so-called “animal activist NGOs” attacked a health awareness poster put out by the Ministry of Health.

The public online educational piece, shared widely over the Internet, offered excellent tips on how the public can protect themselves, among others, against contracting zoonotic viruses and diseases from animals – including the deadly Covid-19 threat.

Instead of commending the government for their quick-thinking and most timely move, several extremist groups unfortunately chose to take issues with MOH for using an image of a dog under the animals section, accusing the authorities of creating “fear” and “hatred” for dogs among the general public.

These bigoted NGOs and individuals with their half baked views (and manipulative private agendas) not only claimed that dogs and cats are “immune” to Covid-19, but also went on to audaciously and quite ludicrously accuse MOH of “creating false news” about the virus.

They also went further to create an online petition to demand the dog’s picture be removed at once from the poster. I thought this was utterly shameful of them.

I viewed the poster as well but didn’t see any of such nonsense.

The MOH awareness piece is brilliant. It offers some easy-to-understand and helpful guidelines on how to protect ourselves from possibly getting infected through an animal source.

To do this, they came up with a novel idea of using the image of a friendly and appealing Beagle breed of canine to represent all animals.

This was rather cleverly done. The Beagle instilled a calm (not panicky) mood in everyone in delivering MOH’s important health message.

Without mentioning the word “dog” at all, it went on to advise the need to practise basic hygiene and cleaning methods when coming into contact with animals.

These include activities and situations like visiting a farm, slaughter house, wet market with live animals to directly interacting with companion pets.

This is, and has always been, a good practice for anyone, whether there is a threat of Covid-19 or not.

As to whether dogs and cats can be infected and spread Covid-19 as a result, there is easily available information at your fingertips online on this or from your local veterinary or health care expert.

The World Health Organization, for example, stresses the point that there has been no scientific evidence to date that dogs or cats have been affected.

However, at the same time experts also can’t guarantee it cannot happen either, more so at this present moment when critical details are still unknown about Covid-19, with top epidemiologists and virologists scrambling to find a cure and produce an effective vaccine for it.

There was absolutely nothing nefarious at all about the MOH poster to remotely even suggest that they had intentions at targeting dogs in order to start a witch hunt against them.

Other than using a picture of a dog to represent all animals, it was interesting to note that the MOH poster never mentioned the word “dog” at all.

Why are these animal groups raising their heckles against the MOH at all?

Just last week, our police force presented a top honour to a German Shepherd named “Lao Wu”, for its invaluable contribution to our nation.

If Malaysia were such a “dog hating” nation as some of these people claim, I would like to know how many of our neighbouring countries have honoured a police dog like we have, noting that last week was not the first time?

It is so very sad how some people are so overwhelmed by their prejudice over the government so much so they are unable to see the great and tireless work done daily by our authorities to do everything they can to stop a most dreaded virus from turning into a very nasty one in our society.

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

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


Dogs have nothing to do with Covid-19

Mariam Mokhtar – February 15, 2020 7:00 AM

On Feb 4, the health ministry (MOH) circulated a poster showing Malaysians how to protect themselves against contracting the novel coronavirus (now known as Covid-19). The posters were seen at the Ipoh Hospital.

While the ministry’s action is commendable, with its use of images for the benefit of sections of the population who are non-readers, many people, including veterinarians, pet owners and NGOs in animal welfare, are upset with its depiction of a dog under the section “Contact with animals”.

The use of the dog’s image is not just unfortunate, it is irresponsible. The poster is ill thought out. Was it proof-read before printing? Did the MOH’s media personnel consult experts in Covid-19?

Remember the Christmas poster which embarrassed Malaysian Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), but brought a smile to our faces, because the posters at the Sultan Ismail Petra airport, in Kota Bharu  wished us a “Mary Christmas” and not “Merry Christmas”? The posters, which were displayed in December 2017, also wished us “Happy New Years”.

If foreign news reports are to be believed, the animals suspected of starting the Covid-19 epidemic were the bats sold at a market for exotic animals in Wuhan. The only thing that bats and dogs have in common is that both are mammals. To include a picture of a dog on the official MOH poster is not only misleading, it is malicious and can have unfortunate consequences.

Animal welfare workers and activists based in Ipoh and the surrounding townships have experienced an increased number of dogs being poisoned or abandoned. It is not clear if it is the result of the picture of the dog.

Sadly, when dogs are killed with poisoned meat, cats and possibly birds would also be killed.

A spokesman for a dog rescue centre said: There is a severe disconnect between the work of NGOs and the decision-making units of the government. This issue should be raised.”

Another person who manages a shelter for strays said: “The MOH should have consulted the appropriate NGOs on all matters concerning animal welfare.”

A veterinary nurse said: “Why equate the picture of a dog with not frequenting markets that sell live animals, or slaughterhouses? Is the MOH suggesting that our markets sell dogs? Are Malaysians eating dog?”

On social media, a senior veterinary surgeon waded into the argument about the MOH poster, and said there is no evidence that pets, such as dogs or cats, can be infected with coronavirus.

He advised pet owners that, as a matter of good personal hygiene, it is good practice to wash one’s hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This would protect the person against various common bacteria such as e.coli and salmonella that could pass between pets and humans.

These people in animal welfare are trying to make MOH to get its facts right, to prevent a panic.

On Feb 5, a private hospital in Rawang apologised and removed a poster which had asked visitors to declare if they had recently visited Singapore or Sabah.

Malaysians from Sabah and many Singaporeans were angered that the hospital had equated them with the people of Wuhan, where the outbreak of the deadly virus was first detected.

A Facebook entry on the hospital’s site said: “The KPJ Rawang Specialist Hospital takes note of the feedback on the snapshot of the poster. We deeply regret and apologise for this oversight.

“Please rest assured there was no intention to offend any individual or state or country. We have taken corrective action to remove the poster immediately.”

So, will MOH apologise to the public and remove the poster which depicts a dog?

The ministry can reprint the poster and replace the picture of the dog with bats. A large section of the population is already fearful of dogs as their ignorance makes them think that dogs are unclean.

Why should these animals suffer or be put to death because of MOH’s printing oversight? Covid-19 has nothing to do with dogs. MOH should stop spreading false information or “fake news”.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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