The other side of midnight

Of dogs that howl and bark in the middle of the night…

I’d say this is a valid case of empathy and I do empathise and I’d ask concerned readers to think of a solution for Amanda.

Amanda writes:

I just read your latest post about developing tolerance, and for the first time in my life, I find myself on the ‘wrong side of the fence’.
There is a small pack of strays roaming the street in front of my block in Brickfields, and I have to say this:  I’m very unhappy about it, and so are my neighbours.
The barking! Last night, a couple of them started barking at about 2:30 am. I know, because I woke up. They were still barking at 4:30 — I was still awake. My blind friends are telling me that they’re falling asleep on the job because the barking is keeping them awake for hours every night. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks.
Their barks are sometimes interrupted by a screeching cat. The stray cats that I’ve been feeding have all disappeared now, and from the sound of it, the dogs have attacked and/or killed most of them. At the least, the cats have fled the area. It’s not that I favour cats over dogs, but at least the cats never caused any trouble.
The walkways are now covered with dog poo. For me, this is not such an issue. I can see it and step around it. My blind neighbours are always stepping in it and then struggling to clean off their shoes and canes.
DBKL puts out woven baskets at the streetside for rubbish, and the dogs are now tearing into the baskets and strewing rubbish far and wide. Again, the blind are slipping in rotting food, and the stench is nearly unbearable. There is no way the Alam Flora men can pick up the scattered bits and pieces from all over the street. It’s a nightmare all round.
Last week, one of the bitches was in heat. The dogs were getting into vicious fights over her. When one of them mated with her, she began shrieking when she wanted to separate from him but they were stuck together. They made so much noise that a man came out of an apartment and began chasing them. The dog dragged the poor bitch across the road on her back — they were still tied in their post-mating bond — while the man stood there and yelled, ‘My children need to sleep, damn you!’  Yes, neutering and spaying would solve this ghastly scene, but not the other problems.
I don’t blame the dogs for any of this, of course. I can honestly go on this rant and say that I still love dogs. But living on the streets of Brickfields as a pack of strays is turning into a hell for everyone involved, human and canine alike.
I would never EVER wish harm to any dog, but this situation is untenable.  I lie awake at night angry at the dogs for barking, and terrified that someone will hurt them because they’re barking. I just want them to go away.  🙁
Very sadly,

I think this problem exists elsewhere too. If you remember some months back, a reader wrote in for help – a pack of aggressive dogs were attacking the cats in her neighbourhood resulting in the death of a few of her cats. The lady did not want to report the case to the local council knowing the fate of the dogs once captured. So, how do we solve that problem? Finally, I think a rescue group offered to help. The lady did not update after that.<

And if you take a drive to Klang, which I  do, whenever I’m invited to give talks over there, many areas in Klang is overpopulated by stray dogs. And some of these dogs are very sickly. I bring a jar of kibble in my car, so that I could feed them if I see them. That’s as much as I can do.

What can we do with them? I’ve suggested neutering and returning to the street should we be unable to rehome them, but the councils come and catch and they are euthanised at the pounds. Some of the Klang folks I’ve spoken to are reluctant to neuter, even if we provide the funding. Why bother, they say, the councils are going to catch them and they will be killed.

So the problem persists.

Ideally, we wish the government would build more government-funded clinics (they used to exist when I was growing up in the small town of Kampar where there were no commercial vets, only a government vet, my two dogs went there), implement large-scale neutering and even more ideally, stop catching the ear-notched animals.

But I  digress.

Please let’s get back to Amanda’s problem of the barking dogs at midnight. Now, how do we solve this problem as compassionately as we can?

Will neutering address the problem? Could they be barking because it is the mating season?

And what about the dogs destroying the baskets? How do we solve that??

And the dogs chasing away and attacking the cats?

Build a no-kill sanctuary and put them all there? How many can we build? Once these dogs are taken away, a vacuum would be created and other dogs from elsewhere will migrate in, and the problem will be back to square one.

Neuter and return and HOPE they don’t bark at night?

I’m truly stumped, so please do offer some suggestions.  This is a very real problem.

Remember Ketam? They caught the dogs and dumped them in the Hell islands for ten years before it was discovered. Now, Pulau Ketam is an island where dogs cannot migrate in (swim across the sea) from other places, yet the problem of the overpopulation of strays still exists even now. That’s because no massive neutering was carried out. The residents did not quite cooperate to make it happen.

At one time, they reported that the dogs were aggressively attacking their children, so they caught the dogs and dumped them on a massive scale to the Hell islands. That also did not solve the problem.

In one of my visits there after one year (after the big expose), I spoke to one of the leaders and he said the councils go in and shoot the dogs. It also will not solve the problem because the root cause is not addressed.

As long as the dogs are not neutered, the problem will persist….for decades and longer.

UPDATES at 1.40pm – I sought help from a very experienced dog handler and this is what he told me. He says there are several reasons why the dogs bark that way:

1. Something is stirring them to bark. Locate that something and remove it. That might solve the problem.

2. Maybe another dog from another colony has entered this colony and that has caused an imbalance of sorts.

3. Sometimes dogs (especially young ones) bark when they play. They are just overly playful and they choose to play at night. Just as children make noise when they play, so do young dogs.

4. Some dogs just love to bark. Sorry, but that’s what they are like, sometimes. Before anybody says anything, I’ll attest to that completely. Our Mac LOVED to bark and would bark for no apparent reason….he did that for 13 years. Bobby, on the other hand, does not bark, or rather, would only bark when necessary, which is a rare occasion.

Back to the barking dogs of Brickfields,I asked if neutering might solve the problem, our dog handler doesn’t think so. He says he suspects something has stirred them to bark. Locate that source. Remove that source, and you might solve the problem.

He definitely does not think removing these barking dogs would help. It would only create a vacuum for other dogs to migrate in.

Over to you, Amanda.

Or, would anyone like to help Amanda locate the source? It would be a midnight adventure. You’ll be helping the blind community in Brickfields too as they too cannot get a decent sleep at night.

2 comments to The other side of midnight

  • Adelyn

    The dogs could be hungry, which leads to rubbish thrown everywhere. She feeds the stray cats, what about the dogs? In my opinion, try feeding them and see if the barking problem still persists. I am willing to help her on the dog food.

  • Amanda

    I agree with what the dog trainer said about the possible causes. It’s interesting, because I’ve lived in this area for 8 years, and we’ve never had this problem before. Yes, there is always a group of dogs that stays near one of the Hindu temples, but this pack is new. I’m inclined to believe that the barking is simply because a few of them are playful barkers. I get up, look out the window, and they’re simply trotting up and down the street, barking their heads off. They don’t appear to be barking AT anything in particular.

    Just a note: I didn’t write my note to Kah Yein to ask for help, nor really to complain. I just read a number of comments on earlier posts suggesting that the only problem with stray dogs is human intolerance. Before this pack of strays invaded our street, I would have agreed! Now that I have big dark circles under my eyes, my attitude has changed. These dogs are presenting problems in our area. I won’t be so quick in future to blame it all on the humans who complain!