16 November 2007

What is wrong with this picture?

Two things: the dogs and the garbage.
These are everyday scenes down in our street!
The dogs are not strays. They probably escaped
or allowed to roam by their irresponsible owners.
And the garbage probably does not belong to the house.
Somebody must have thrown them there
hoping the homeowner will dispose of it for them.

Most of us tolerate these scenes because we feel helpless and frustrated calling the attention of authorities who seem incapable of addressing the problem under their jurisdiction and enforcing the law. In this scene two laws and ordinances are being violated: Republic Act 8485 and the Anti-Littering ordinance.

Republic Act 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act
was created in 1998 to protect and promote the welfare of ALL ANIMALS in the Philippines by supervising and regulating the establishment and operations of all facilities utilized for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating or training of ALL animals either as objects of trade or as household pets.

What are the usual blatant violations? Breeders like stud farms, vet clinics, pet shops, kennels, slaughterhouses operating WITHOUT permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry. This requisite is important because under the law you have to have the proper certification that you have the necessary facilities and system.

In the Philippines, because of security problems, almost every household have a watchdog, the eternal "Bantay" (to guard) which is usually a mixed breed or cross breed which people mistakenly refers to as 'local dogs' or Philippine dogs and as 'Askals' or strays. These dogs are kept outside the house, tied, or worst, allowed to roam the street! Some households maintain two pet dogs: Bantay and a supposed purebred type kept and pampered inside the house. Although there is no law against discrimination (it is just an indication of men's folly) there is a law against maltreatment of dogs: not providing adequate care and protection like clean water, healthy meals, shelter from sun and rain, not too constricting collars or leash, not providing medical care when they are sick, or giving them annual shots, etc.

The real Askals or asong kalye (strays) have no specific breeds. They were either lost or let loose by their owners. In most communities in the Philippines, authorities try to catch these dogs even if they can not provide adequate facilities for their confinement. This is a violation of the law!

Responsible ownership of pets is mandated by this law. Simply put, one can not simply get a watchdog and not bother about its upkeep.

Dog eating and dog fighting are also prohibited. But these cruel acts does not need laws for anyone to realize this yet somehow they proliferate. And violations and abuses are committed because most of us do not take action when we should.

ACT NOW! When you see a starving dog tied ANYWHERE, dogs allowed by its owners to roam, dogfighting, dog-eating, look for its owner and calmly remind them (hysterics won't get you anywhere!) of RA8485. If they disregard your reminder, call the local barangay (the authorized agency) who should be knowledgeable about the law (chances are you might need to educate or remind them!) and enforce it, NOT on the dogs, but the owners!

An old law gone mad. You see them all the time. People throw anything down the streets: their cigarette sticks, candy wrappers, bus tickets, softdrink cans, tissue paper, etc.

ACT NOW! Call anyone's attention when you see them do this. Again try the charm technique, and if it won't work, report them. Both violations are covered by fines (P300 fine for anti-littering, and for animal cruelty, fines as much as P1,000-P5,000 including imprisonment for repeated offenses!)

IT is COOL to be vigilant and care about your surroundings. Use your camera phone. Document violations. Volunteer to disseminate information to your communities. Sometimes people are just plain ignorant. Go to schools. Go to bus depot. Design posters and bring them to your barangay and municipal leaders for printing and distribution. Volunteer to distribute them yourself. And join organizations and support groups so you will not feel alone. You need not be a hero to do this but you are one if you decided to take action.