I am working on a project at the moment that has, as one of its aims, the increase of tourist arrivals into the country.
This last weekend, we drove up into the mountains east of Kota Kinabalu and I made a point of trying to see things through the eyes of a tourist. There was one thing that stood out by a mile – and it wasn’t the great scenery, lovely though that was. It was the dogs.
There are not all that many dogs in rural Peninsular Malaysia because most rural people are Muslims; not so in Sabah. Every roadside restaurant or village had its dogs.
And I have never seen such a sorry lot in my life. Thin – often with the ribs showing, largely hairless with mange or something similar, scratching unhappily, lying on the bitumen of the road in an attempt to assuage the itch…they were everywhere. The hotel we stayed in had a dog with what might have been an untreated broken leg. Certainly he couldn’t use it, and seemed uncomfortable no matter what he did.
It was a horrible advertisement: Come to Sabah and see how we look after our pets. I can imagine a great many tourists so upset by this parade of pathetic pooches that they don’t even notice the beauty of the Crocker Range and the National Park on either side of the road…
Malaysia, you want to please tourists, you got a lot to learn about compassion for animals first. And I’m not even a dog person.