“They dodge cars; look for food in the garbage, battle malnutrition and sickness in silence… They don’t vote, they can’t speak and their “rights” are still not recognized by most members of society.”

– Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) website

CALL me mean or cruel but it breaks my heart seeing stray, skin and bone dogs more than seeing street children. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hate kids, in fact I dream of bearing plenty of them. But these human beings are equipped with rational minds and enough power, if not with responsible parents, to feed and protect them, unlike pets.

Solely relying on their animal instinct, unattended dogs roam the streets in hopes of surviving the day. These stray dogs are a fixture of Manila streets, until they are carried out to live their longest five days in the city pound. The ultimatum is set to determine the dogs’ existence- if an owner reclaims his pet by paying the penalty, then the dog will be saved. If not, the dog will be “put to sleep.”

An article of the Manila Times last November 18 revealed how “more than a dozen of street dogs were brutally killed through gas suffocation as part of a government campaign to keep the streets safe from the possible rabid animals.” Similar cases were also reported late last year in Cebu.

“Workers strangled the dogs—while spectators watched—as they put them inside a steel cage and suffocated one after the other by fumes from the exhaust of a petrol engine in Kidapawan City (Mindanao) early this month… Workers usually rev up their petrol engine so fumes from the exhaust fill up the steel cage and suffocate the dogs. The process takes at least seven minutes until the dogs die from carbon monoxide poisoning,” the article read. “In Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental province, dogs are also euthanized by suffocating them in a cage similar to those in Kidapawan City.”

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After the supposedly merciful killing, the dead dogs were then buried in a pit.

These reports may make your stomach lurch or bring down a tear or two from your eyes. But animal welfare advocates have been fighting for the humane treatment of animals. And it’s shocking that local officials seem ignorant of Republic Act 8485 which clearly states that “the killing of the animals shall be done through humane procedure at all times” using the “most scientific method available” and approved by the Committee on Animal Welfare.

Why do animal rights volunteers need to endlessly emphasize their concerns when a 10-year-old law is supposed to address their concerns?

Considering the reports, have there been attempts by the national government to clamp down on violators of the law, which states that those who fail to provide humane treatment to animals will face “imprisonment of not less than six months nor more than two years; or a fine of not less than P1,000 or both.”

As you can see, the penalties for inflicting abusive treatment on animals, including their merciless killing, are light. You may in fact cry for a harsher penalty for the gravity of the harsh treatment of animals. But that would require a rewriting of the law. What we should demand here is its effective enforcement so as to deter further abuse of animals.

But who is supposed to oversee the effective implementation of R.A. 8485? Who is the watchdog of the law that is supposed to protect dogs, cats and other animals from man’s inhumanity?

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