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Dr. Dog Program Assists Dogs and Humans in Malaysia

The Dr. Dog Program seems to be a shining star giving hope to dogs and people! Please be aware that this article contains some very...

Joy  |  Jun 3rd 2007


SabrinaYeapJoyand PaulCheong.jpg

The Dr. Dog Program seems to be a shining star giving hope to dogs and people!

Please be aware that this article contains some very upsetting information about the treatment of dogs in Malaysia.

Thanks to the Star Online for this hopeful article.

Animal-assisted therapy

By SHOBA MANO

Dr Dog is a programme where dogs make weekly visits to hospitals, old folks and childrens homes as part of an animal-assisted therapy programme.

Now this programme is coming to Malaysia through the Furry Friends Farm (FFF), an animal shelter cum working farm in Kundang, Selangor.

The Dr Dog programme was introduced by the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) in Hong Kong. Jill Robinson, who founded AAF, says medical evidence indicates that people who have pets enjoy lower stress and cholesterol levels, a stronger immune system and less chance of suffering a heart attack.

Since the programme started, AAF has witnessed the dogs changing many lives. For example, two patients an autistic child and a man suffering from senile dementia who had not spoken in years, began to speak after several visits from the dogs.

How it all started

Robinson, who has been working in Hong Kong and China since 1985, found it increasingly difficult to ignore the pitiful cries of cats and dogs crammed inside cages at wet markets.

I began to shoot videos and use them to campaign against killing animals and wildlife for food and fur, said Robinson.

In 1991, she introduced the concept of animal welfare through people welfare when she read about animal-assisted therapy in hospitals across the UK.

At first, Robinsons requests for her dog, Max to be used for therapy were turned down by Hong Kong hospitals. She persisted, and one day, the Duchess of Kent Childrens Hospital relented.

Max was not the least bit perturbed as the sceptical medical staff and media watched us, recalled Robinson of her very first Dr Dog outing.

A depressed and withdrawn teenage paraplegic, who was confined to his bed, was wheeled to the front. Medical staff did not expect him to participate in this trial project, but Max had other ideas.

He went straight past the curious children to the boy, stood on his hind legs and placed his golden paws on the side of his bed. The boys face lit up in a radiant smile. By the end of that session, Robinson was invited to return with Max, and the Dr Dog Programme was born.

How it works

Participating dogs need only be vaccinated and neutered. A simple test is also done to place the dog in the category most suited to its temperament before it is sent out each week to various places. The guardians only tag along.

My dog, Ocha, went blind after an accident. I took her to a school for the blind and the children wanted to know how Ocha found her food and water bowl. It was a great opportunity for me to share how intelligent animals are and the special senses they have which are far superior to humans, said AAF honorary director Gigi Fu.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, the FFFs commitment to animals caught AAFs attention. They were so impressed by the organisations work that they paid all expenses for two FFF representatives to train for six days in Hong Kong to learn about the Dr Dog Programme. One of those who went was Paul Choong, 50 (and his dog Joy).

Joy was a stray dog that had been attacked by Indonesian migrant workers who called him haram. The attack, which was reported to have taken place at the Ki-Park Sri Utara construction site in Kuala Lumpur, was so violent that veterinarians were forced to remove his lower jaw.

Ive accumulated a lifetime of heartache investigating animal abuse for 10 years in Malaysia, said Sabrina Yeap, 43, a former animal inspector who founded the FFF and rescued Joy.

Yeap has fought to prosecute those who splashed boiling water on dogs and confined cats for breeding in small cages where they were forced to sleep on their own faeces.

Despite all this, Ive watched Malaysian courts give only token fines to abusers. Even worse, they returned the abused animals to their abusers.

FFF is keen to educate the abusers as Malaysian society itself is to blame for what happened to Joy. When animal abusers are not prosecuted or are let off lightly, what message does this send to the public? she asked.

The launch

Yeap said there was currently no systematic education on animal welfare in Malaysia. Now that the FFF is launching the Dr Dog Programme, she hopes the government would lend its support by allowing them to visit homes for the wayward, prisons and hospitals so more people can benefit from the canine doctors.

Choong, Joys guardian, is one of those who has been trained for the purpose.

When I went to Hong Kong, I met Eddie, Robinsons Dr Dog. She had rescued Eddie from a wet market where he was about to be killed for meat.

Eddie is affectionately called Wong Jai, translated as Yellow Boy, by the people he visits each day in Hong Kong. He is now an international star, having appeared with Robinson on CNNs Talk Asia and National Geographics Dogs With Jobs.

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