Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Animal Welfare Situation

By Anna Isabel C. Rodriguez

The author with just some of her pet dogs on a normal weekend.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way animals are treated,” Mahatma Gandhi said.

The young doktora smiles as she proudly shows this quote. We are in the City Hall, inside the busy Health office. Being interviewed is Dr. Karen Vicencio, City Vet, Parañaque’s one-woman Animal Welfare Division.

According to Section 7 of Republic Act 9482 or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007, local government units (LGUs) are not only required by law to employ a veterinarian, they are also required to establish and maintain a city pound and a city veterinary office. The latter provisions have yet to see light as Parañaque struggles to implement RA 9482. In the meantime, Dra. Vicencio, seemingly misplaced in the City Health Office, looks to the future for possible programs and improvements.

Animal Welfare in the Back Seat

Republic Act 8485  of the Animal Welfare Act of 2008 calls for humane and proper treatment of animals, penalizes animal torture and neglect, and empowers the Bureau of Animal Industry to regulate animal handling through proper issuance of permits.

Though this law has been in existence since 2008, there are still various animal welfare issues that cry for attention. According to Heidi Caguioa of the Animal Kingdom Foundation, a UK based animal welfare organization, these concerns vary and range from human neglect, maltreatment, and cruelty, to the illegal dog meat trade.

Private animal welfare groups have taken action to help address these issues but government action is not so visible. Anna Cabrera of PAWS or the Philippine Animal Welfare Society claims that “the BAI has not filed a single court case for violation of the AWA”.

As is apparent in the situation in Parañaque City, the government has seemingly assigned the implementation of this law and other laws related to animal welfare to the back seat

City Vets in Need

The situation in Parañaque is not an isolated case, and there are even some cities that are worse off. In Las Piñas City, a query about animal welfare will lead you the Animal Husbandry Division under the city’s Agriculture arm. And though there are Anti-Rabies vaccines given out for free in the community, Cesar Canoi, the Agriculture Department’s Administrative Aid confirmed that there is neither a City Veterinarian nor a City Pound. 

In NCR, other cities that do not have this law-mandated City Veterinarian include Taguig and Pateros.

The story, however, is different in Muntinlupa City. With a dedicated City Veterinary Office that aims to “provide quality veterinary services with main trust on animal health, animal welfare,” etc, the city has launched various campaigns which include vaccinations, animal registrations, and animal impounding. Muntinlupa has also reiterated RA 8485 in its Muntinlupa City Veterinary Code of 2009 or City Ordinance 10-118. Dr. Adrian Alab Castillo, Assistant Department Head of the Muntinlupa Veterinary Office, tells us that there are anti-rabies campaigns and programs, spay/neuter operations, and an animal impounding system in place.

Despite the fact that this may be an improvement over the situation in other cities, it is still a far cry from the ideal animal welfare scenario. Though Muntinlupa operates a City Pound, resources are scarce as is evident from the city’s one and only dog-catching team unit composed of three personnel. 

City Ordinance 10-118 allows only 48 hours for owners to claim their impounded dogs from the City Pound. After this grace period, the dogs are then either put up for adoption or, in almost all cases, put to sleep. In practice, though, the Veterinary Office holds off euthanasia and allows the dogs to remain in the pound for as long as 3 weeks, waiting for dog fosters that almost always never comes. Dr. Castillo explains further the gravity of the situation as he tells us about how the conversion of these pounds to animal shelters, which avoid euthanasia and aim to rehabilitate, are just not a sustainable reality with the present conditions in the country.

Possible Solutions and More Problems

Various other issues plague the implementation of the AWA.

Issues at local government levels include problems on budget, support, priority, and even politics. Parañque has yet to enact provisions on RA 8485 RA 9482 and Dra. Vicencio tells us that this is due to the fact that the City Ordinances for these are yet to be passed. Although the passage of this ordinance has supposedly been put in motion, as is with the dozens of animal welfare programs that Dra. Vicencio has proposed for the city, approval and implementation, if the programs do push through, take time. Meanwhile, the problem persists.

On the other hand, a number of animal welfare groups have protested and lobbied for the amendment of RA 8485. In senate, there is now the consolidated senate Bill 3329 sponsored by Senator Francis Pangilinan which improve the country’s Animal Welfare Act. “The existing law has no teeth”, Atty. Caguioa of AKF explains, “no national program provided for animal welfare and the Animal Welfare Division, no power to enforce it, plus the fact that it has no provisions for budget”.

Animal Welfare is at a standstill because of the coming elections. At present, SB 3329 had not reached its 3rd reading as the bill’s movement was interrupted by the start of the election campaign period. Atty Caguioa tells us that they hope to refile the bill in the next Congress.

However, not everything picks up as fast after elections are over. Most local government offices are unsure of what platforms these newly elected officials bring. The City Veterinarians can just hope that whoever is elected retains the existing Veterinary Office and continues already existing programs, or begins one if there isn’t any.

“Bantay” and a Call for Awareness

In a third world country like the Philippines, most people reiterate the bigger importance and value of humans over animals. Dogs are of lesser priority, usually constrained to guard dog roles. Dr. Castillo tells us that Filipino culture sometimes even adds to animal cruelty and the dog meat trade as actions like these are considered by others as “macho”.

Ignorance of the issues become the biggest enemy to animal welfare. Perverted perceptions and flawed facts are often what amount to negligence and abuse.

Awareness then becomes the biggest weapon against against infringements on animal welfare, a weapon that Dra. Vicencio, Dr. Castillo, and even animal welfare groups like AKF use.

There is more to Bantay being a guard dog. As Gandhi said, how we treat him reflects on who we are.

(This article was written last month for my advanced journalism class. Thought I'd share this as this paints a fair picture of the animal welfare situation in the country)


  1. i agree that our culture does impose on issues of "Greater" importance than animal welfare; though come to think of it, it is sad to think that way for animals, for example, rely on us to speak for their rights.

  2. @checkirish: need a campaign by notable celebrities who can make the case for getting law implemented or its practices into use. Showing the bond practiced between companion animals & people,openly acknowledging & showing inhumane practices in print & other visual media will go long way towards getting people to change their outlooks towards animal care.
    Also, get youth involved in humane education practices.
    Albert Schweitzer:teaching a child to not step on a bug is as important for the child as the bug.
    Encourage spaying & neutering of companion animals.

  3. Hi! I'm from and I have been worried about the dogs around our neighborhood particularly one dog which I will call Bantay. It has been in a tight cage with no matting since it was a puppy..this dog is now turning 8 this year. It's gravely malnorished with scabs and wounds. It's left outside the home of its' owner irregardless of what weather we have..(typhoons and summer heat) I proded our neighbor to have pity but he said they're just waiting for the dog to die..obviously!! I don't know what to do and who to call for help..I don't want the dog to toast esp.that summer is only months away.♥

  4. Hi Anonymous (January 25, 2015 at 7:31 PM):

    Salamat po sa pag-aalala sa kapakanan ni Bantay. Salamat din po dahil ayon sa kwento mo, kinausap mo na rin 'yong pabayang kapitbahay. The way I see it, you're willing to take action so as to help Bantay, but you just don't know how to go about it.

    May iilang naitatag na animal welfare organizations sa bansa dahil sa ganyang pagmamaltrato/pagpapabaya sa mga hayop (kaunti lang...) like PAWS, PALS, CARA, and P.A.R.T. Please note that inasmuch as these organizations aim to help as many as they can, they can only do so much in the face of a staggering number of animal cruelty/neglect cases in the country--they don't have enough funds and manpower to respond to all of these. Nakasalalay lang din po ang pagpapatuloy ng kanilang efforts sa volunteers at donasyon ng citizens. In this regard, dito po papasok ang willingness mo to take action.

    Please contact one or all of these animal welfare groups and tell them how you're going to commit yourself to helping Bantay. Hangga't maaari, huwag lang pong via FB dahil malamang binabaha sila ng messages doon--kindly contact them via phone and email first. Pero mahalaga po ang commitment to be proactive on your part--marami rin po kasing hanggang pagsusumbong lang ang ginagawa, walang follow through/commitment. But before that, you might want to read up on their guidelines in responding to these cruelty/neglect cases so you know how you can fit into the scenario of helping Bantay.

    [For example, eto po ang nakasaad sa FAQ ng PAWS regarding pet neglect ( Pakibasa po nang maigi, marami pong actionable steps na nakasaad sa link. Huwag pong kalilimutang mas maraming natutulungan ang animal welfare groups in cooperation with proactive citizens.]

    Sana po matuloy ang pagtulong ninyo. Sa tulong ninyo, sigurado akong maranasan din ni Bantay ang pagmamahal at pag-aaruga na nararapat para sa kanya.


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