CommunityCerita Exclusive

I’m A Muslim Vet Who Was Bashed For Touching Dogs. But It’s My Passion & Duty To Treat Them

"If you can’t help or don’t like dogs, the least you can do is not harm them."

Exclusive Story by WeirdKaya – Reproduction requires proper crediting and backlink to us. Kindly acknowledge the efforts of our editors in sourcing and conducting interviews.

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Being a veterinarian is a both a calling and a giant responsibility, where one is trained to treat and relieve the pain and suffering that all kinds of animals experience, including those considered ‘haram’ (forbidden) under certain religions.

For Dr Salehatul Khuzaimah, she is breaking both religious and societal taboos with her work as a vet, where she has been tirelessly attending to rabbits, ducks, cats, and dogs for the past 15 years.

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Dr salehatul khuzaimah with a ferret
Provided to WeirdKaya

To know how it all started, we have to first talk about a cat.

All began with a pet cat

While most would say that they knew what they wanted as a career when they were young, Dr Salehatul’s initial ambition was actually to be a medical doctor, not a vet.

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But that all changed when a feline companion was brought into the picture.

“When I was small, my father brought home a pet cat, which was our first pet. On top of that, he often encouraged me and my sisters to interact more with them and not to be afraid of animals, including dogs.

Dr salehatul khuzaimah holding a cat
Provided to WeirdKaya

“Unfortunately, the cat fell sick and died after a few years as there wasn’t many veterinarians around at the time, which traumitised me and my siblings.

It was also at that moment when I thought to myself, ‘I have to be the person who’s able to treat such animals so that they don’t suffer the same fate.'”

After several years and more cats being brought back home (mostly without her father’s knowledge), Dr Salehatul’s resolve to be a vet grew all the stronger and her veterinary journey officially began in 2009 after graduating from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Getting up close & personal with dogs

As a vet, one has to be in direct and constant contact with different kinds of animals, including dogs. And it is no different for Dr Salehatul.

I was curious as to how she performs her daily duties on dogs that walk into the clinic and asked her about it. According to Dr Salehatul, it consists of two main procedures before they are able to do further diagnostic procedures and treatments: general and physical examinations.

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Dr salehatul khuzaimah examining a puppy
Provided to WeirdKaya

“General examination is when we examine the patient without touching them. This applies to all kinds of animals, not just dogs alone. During this procedure, we will ask the owner about the animal’s medical history, what are their concerns or any abnormalities that they observe in their pet.

“The next step is the physical examination, where we are required to touch the patient from top to bottom, and from front to back. But before we do so, we will ask the owner whether their pet is okay having another person touch them as some might be uncomfortable with it,” she explained.

Dr Salehatul added that touching the furry patient is important for vets to detect any lumps or abnormalities that the animal might have.

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Dr salehatul khuzaimah treating a dog
Provided to WeirdKaya

Touch is crucial part of the job but many people often don’t understand this. I’ve been chided many times for touching dogs with my bare hands or being overly affectionate towards them.

“If I don’t touch the patients for myself or wear gloves while examining them, I may miss out on a lump on their body and give a wrong diagnosis.

“As such, I prefer examining my patients with my bare hands. The only time where I wear gloves is if the patient has an open or infected wound, is suspected to have an infectious disease which can affect humans, and of course, during surgeries,” she said.

Performing sertu

Given the fact that it’s common knowledge that those who practice the Islamic faith are unclean after coming in contact with animals deemed to be ‘haram’ such as pigs and dogs, there is a special cleansing procedure that they must perform — sertu.

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@drima_vet Netizen: yakin suci ke sertu pakai ‘sabun’ tanah tu? #vetlife #drima_vet #TikTokGuru #LearnOnTiktok #kitajagakita #JomBelajar #fyp #worldsanimalmalaysia2021 ♬ Classical Music – Classical Music

Dr Salehatul told me that since Malaysia largely practices the Shafi’i school of thought, it’s imperative for Muslims to perform sertu whenever they come in contact with dogs, most notably its saliva.

“To perform sertu, all you need to do is to take a little soil and mix with water, rub it around your hands, and wash it with water six times.

One of the main reasons why Muslims are hesitant to come near or touch dogs is because they’ve been taught that sertu is a long, tedious process. But in actual fact, it’s not!” she said with a wide smile.

Overcoming prejudice and backlash

While Dr Salehatul said she was blessed to have supportive parents who were more than happy to see her pursue her passion to be a vet, some relatives didn’t share the same sentiment.

“When I first announced to them that I wanted to be an animal doctor, these relatives questioned my decision and even called me names for choosing this path.

“This was because being a vet wasn’t a popular course to pursue at the time and it was further compounded by the fact that I have to come in contact with dogs and pigs,” she said.

Dr salehatul khuzaimah holding a dog
Provided to WeirdKaya

On top of that, Dr Salehatul also had to deal with backlash from netizens, who slammed her for being so close and personal with dogs while donning the hijab and professing the Islamic faith.

But none of these are stopping her from doing what she loves the most — treating the animals that need her the most.

There’s already an abundant supply of medical doctors but not veterinarians. These are animals who need my help and it’s my job and responsibility to treat them.

Thanks to her determination, Dr Salehatul has now gained the admiration and respect of owners who were initially hesitant to let her examine their pets.

Dr salehatul khuzaimah petting dogs at the vet clinic
Provided to WeirdKaya

“When the clinic was first opened in Kota Kemuning, many owners were afraid to step into the premise with their dogs. I had to reassure them that while yes, I’m a Muslim, but I’m also a vet who has a responsibility to treat their pets.

“At the same time, I also educated them on how dogs should be treated according to Islam as I wanted to dispel the misconception that Muslims aren’t allowed to touch dogs at all.

“Over time, they came to respect me based on the fact that I wasn’t hesitant to treat or touch dogs. To me, it’s a positive experience and good exposure for both myself and the pet owner,” she said.

‘Don’t harm them’

Dr Salehatul believes there has been some improvement in terms of how dogs are perceived by Malaysian Muslims, but there’s no denying that there is segment of people who still harbour strong reservations towards them.

Dr salehatul khuzaimah with a rottweiler
Provided to WeirdKaya

“My words of advice for these people would be that they have to understand why God created dogs in the first place. He created them so they must have a purpose.

As for what is our purpose as human beings in this world that makes our lives meaningful, it can be seen in how we treat animals. We, as human beings, are called to be kind to all animals, including dogs.

“While we cannot force everyone to like dogs, the least one can do is not to harm them,” she said.


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