Man wins right to sue Penang council over death of beach dog

Butcho, a female mongrel aged 15, was tranquilised by city council officers at a Penang beach in 2018.

GEORGE TOWN: The High Court here today allowed a pet owner to sue the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for negligence over the killing of his dog in a stray catching operation in Batu Ferringhi beach here two years ago.

Beachboy Chendeladevan Kuppusamy, 51, had tried to sue MBPP after his dog “Butcho”, aged 15, was shot with tranquillisers by MBPP dog catchers and later dragged by the neck into a council lorry.

However, the Sessions Court here had dismissed his case, filed on July 30, 2018, on technical grounds, one of which was that Butcho was an unlicensed dog.

Chendeladevan, assisted by pro-bono lawyers, had appealed to the High Court saying his dog had been licensed since 2014, claiming negligence against the city council.

Today, Judicial Commissioner Wong Hok Chong allowed the appeal and ordered the case to be tried.

“This matter ought to be decided at trial and cannot be dismissed summarily,” he said in delivering his decision today. He ordered MBPP to pay RM4,000 in costs.

Chendeladevan was represented by Marcia Lopez while Karin Lim appeared for MBPP.

According to Chendeladevan’s statement of claim, MBPP had in bad faith taken his dog away at a public beach by force and later caused its death.

He also claimed the dog catchers had lied about the whereabouts of Butcho when he went to the dog pound to reclaim it.

Chendeladevan and Butcho.

This was after an officer claimed that the dog escaped from the lorry on its way to the pound. Later, a third-party informant told Chendeladevan that Butcho had died.

He is claiming for general, aggravated and exemplary damages and other reliefs deemed fit by the court. He is also demanding for Butcho’s remains to be returned to him.

On Feb 28, 2018, MBPP’s dog catchers caught Butcho at the Batu Ferringhi public beach near the Golden Sands Resort, as part of an operation of rounding up strays following complaints of attacks by stray dogs.

However, when Butcho was taken away, the council was rebuked by tourists as the senior dog was “docile and harmless”. There was a large-scale protest at the beach when Butcho was declared “dead”.

Chendeladevan, in his court statement, claimed witnesses saw Butcho being dragged by the neck into a council lorry despite having a dog tag.

Mayor Yew Tung Seang had later said Butcho had died of old age and cardiac arrest.

He said the dog was regarded as a stray as it had no licence, and the council had every right to seize it.

Witnesses saw Butcho being dragged by the neck into a council lorry despite having a dog tag.

An application for a dog licence was only made after the dog catching operations were carried out, he was reported by Harian Metro as saying.

In a statement of defence in court, MBPP had said the dog catchers had indeed shot Butcho with a tranquilliser as allowed under the law. It said the dog had fled into the sea after it was shot, forcing dog catchers to wade into the sea to rescue it.

Later, Butcho was placed in a net and placed in a dog pound lorry, the council said, denying that it dragged the animal by its neck into the vehicle.

MBPP said it was alive and “dazed” when it was in the lorry, as per the account of dog catcher Wan Mohd Arif Hakimi Wan Deraman.

Arif had found Butcho to be “breathless” and “likely dead” in the lorry while the canine was on its way to the council dog pound in Sungai Pinang, the statement read.

The council claimed it sent Butcho’s remains to the Veterinary Services Department office in Bukit Mertajam.

It said when Chendeladevan had come to reclaim the dog, Arif told him that Butcho had escaped en route to the pound, so as to calm him down at the pound’s office.

The MBPP also denied claims that a staff at the pound had asked Chendeladevan to renew Butcho’s dog licence to reclaim the canine.