How Kitsap County in Washington state handles their strays (from Dr Namita Gill’s letter)

This letter is written by Dr Namita Gill, a Malaysian nephrologist residing and working in the US, who is also the president of Filbert’s Foundation for Furry Friends, a US society founded in 2022 to help Malaysian stray dogs.

Namita and I became friends after she contacted me recently and also because we share a same passion – to help the street animals in Malaysia. Her passion is more towards helping street dogs as dogs are definitely in a more vulnerable position than cats in our country.

The link to the letter is here:

Namita highlights many, many pertinent issues which we have all been fighting for all these years. We thank her very much for taking an interest in speaking up for Malaysian dogs even though she is oceans away from home.

I am personally very attracted to this part of her letter where she shares about how the “local council” equivalent in her area handles their strays. Their “local council” is called the Kitsap Humane Society which by virtue of its name already suggests that their mission is very, very different from our local councils.

This part:

In the United States, animal welfare practices vary by state and county,  just like in Malaysia. The Filbert’s Foundation for Furry Friends (F5) is based out of Kitsap County, Washington state. The Kitsap Humane Society (KHS) in the state is an equivalent body to a local council in Malaysia. The KHS investigated 3,107 citizen complaints in 2020. They rescued 3,818 animals. Strays without a  microchip are held for 96 hours. Those with a microchip will are held for seven days while attempts are made to contact the owners. There is no bail fee. After this period, KHS will perform a health exam, revaccinations and then attempt to get these animals adopted or fostered. Several hundred foster families are working with the KHS, which has four veterinarians on staff on site. In 2020, they sterilised 3,529 animals, or 9.6 per day. They have a low cost spay and neuter programme for low-income pet owners which brings them a revenue of about US$150,000 (RM679,000) a year. Updated 2022 data show they have a 94% life release rate. This means 94% of the animals they rescue are reclaimed or adopted. Those that are euthanised have serious health or behavioural issues. The ASPCA site shows that 12% of the dogs in shelters across the US are euthanised. 

We are looking to help Malaysian councils emulate a similar model. We want to raise awareness of the sad stray dog situation in Malaysia to Malaysians overseas. We need them to also be motivated to help our cause. We hope to work with the Malaysian government to accept the help of international  animal welfare organisations. Just like religion, we believe there animal welfare should not be politicised. Let us do the right thing. 

Now, here’s what I know and gather:

How KHS is similar to our local councils:

  1. They investigate citizen complaints.

How KHS differs from our local councils:

  1. They rescue the animals.
  2. They attempt to contact the owners for the animals with microchip.
  3. They do not impose a bail fee (compound).
  4. They perform health exams and revaccinations.
  5. They attempt to get these animals adopted or fostered.
  6. They work with foster families.
  7. They have veterinarians on staff on site.
  8. They neuter animals.
  9. They have a low-cost neutering programme for low-income pet owners.
  10. They only euthanise those with serious health or behavioral issues.
  11. They have a 94% reclaim and/or adoption rate.

Thank you very much for sharing how KHS handles their strays, Namita.

We hope your letter gets to our authorities and we hope they will take the time to think of some (if not all) of the methods that they could follow in order to improve their present system. Granted, as always, we will always be told that we cannot compare our culture with a western or a different one. Yes, that is true.

But we believe kindness is culture-blind and universal. And education is possible if one is willing to learn.

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