A three-legged dog and a young Malay vet’s mission to help strays

WHEN Dr Taqiyudin Zainal first came across BJ, the scruffy dog was whimpering inside a drain, left for dead after a hit-and-run by a car had rendered the animal unable to walk.

Dr Taqiyudin, a vet who goes by the name Dr Taq, rescued the animal and nursed him back to health at his then newly opened animal shelter for stray dogs and cats.

“BJ was hit by a car, and I found him in a drain.

“He couldn’t even move because his right leg was broken. I treated him, but his leg had to be amputated because it was infected,” recalled Dr Taq

After BJ was completely healed, Dr Taq set the dog free where he was discovered, but the pooch found its way back to his rescuer. This happened twice, before Dr Taq decided BJ could stay.

“Twice I sent him back. It’s rather far from my village, too, about 5km. And I placed him at a spot where there were other dogs, right next to a river. And the locals there often fed the dogs.

“But BJ kept coming back to look for me.

“Dogs are naturally tame, and they are very appreciative of people who help them,” he said of the incident, which took place a year ago.

Dr Taq, 29, said his experience with BJ, and the hundreds of stray dogs and cats he rescued over the last two years since he opened his clinic and animal shelter, motivated him to continue his work in spite of the brickbats he constantly faces.

A love for animals

The veterinary graduate from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) set up his practice – Taqwa Veterinary Clinic – some three years ago in Shah Alam using his own savings of RM45,000 and some help from his father and brother.

“I started this clinic with a small capital, unlike a lot of other clinics which usually need hundreds of thousands of ringgit,” he said.

He said he wanted to start helping and healing animals, and didn’t want cost to get in the way.

After a year of setting up shop, Dr Taq decided to set up the Taqwa Animal Shelter for stray cats and dogs.

He works closely with youth groups and volunteers on a Trap, Neuter & Release (TNR) programme, where strays are brought in to the shelter, given medical attention if needed, neutered and then released.

Dr Taq believes the work by his team and the volunteers has helped control the population of strays in the neighbourhood of Sijangkan village, where he lives.

So far, he has neutered around 10 wild dogs and 120 stray cats over the past two years.

“I can’t do that much with the dogs, because it’s not easy trying to capture wild dogs,” said Dr Taq.

“That’s why I need the help of villagers.”

Condemnation and criticisms

Being the son of the village head didn’t make it any easier for Dr Taq when he decided his practice would be open to all animals.

He said his father bore the brunt of the complaints and criticism, but the family remained resolved in their decision to support him.

“Without my parents, I could not do this on my own.

“Initially, many didn’t like it, because my dad was the village head, and had connections with the mosque.

“But after a while, I started facing those who condemned me to explain it to them. That’s why we always conduct programmes to educate the people on the importance of controlling the population of stray cats and dogs,” he said.

Many people continue to criticise him, and accuse him of not being a good Muslim, but Dr Taq says he has learnt not to be affected by the condemnation.

Three years ago, the National Fatwa Council ruled that touching and holding dogs was against the beliefs of the Shafie school of Islamic jurisprudence.

However, an independent preacher who goes by the name  Imam Muda Asyraf said society should not criticise Dr Taq’s work, as it did not go against religious laws.

“The villagers shouldn’t condemn him, in fact, they should praise him,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“If we become doctors, and while treating people we come in contact with blood, we just have to cleanse ourselves before prayers.

“It’s the same with dogs that we treat; just cleanse our hands, no problems.”

Dr Taq chooses not to allow the religious debate and his critics to sway him from the work he loves.

Instead, he wants to focus on his next goal – expanding his clinic and reaching out to more volunteers to help rescue more stray cats and dogs. He also hopes to launch more activities to educate the public.

“In the next 10 years, I hope that this clinic and shelter will grow. I also hope the public will realise the importance of vaccinating and sterilising cats and dogs,” he said.

“It’s not a question of money (that motivates me), It’s the feeling of personal achievement.” – October 15, 2017.

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