|A cat bridge at the PAWS facility, so that cats can exercise and maintain their athleticism while still being confined at the facility|
|PAWS Program Director Anna Hashim Cabrera|
briefs new volunteers during the orientation
The case of Joseph Candare, the University of the Philippines (U.P.) at Diliman physics student who was sentenced to do community service and levied a fine for violating provisions of R.A. No. 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act which involved animal cruelty for killing a cat at U.P. Diliman has brought home to the residents and those who work and study at the Diliman area, the importance of treating animals with compassion and humanity; for the creation of a more peaceful society starts with the widening of mankind's circle of compassion, which includes animals.
And so it came to pass that I found myself attending a volunteer's orientation on February 4, lasting four hours at the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) compound at Aurora Boulevard corner Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, given by its Program Director, Anna Hashim Cabrera. This is the same PAWS compound where the judge at the Quezon City Muncipal Trial Court ordered Candare to render two months worth of community service (which he is still completing to this day). Candare was also levied a fine of PhP 2000.00. In both instances, the punishments were for stomping a kitten to death at the National Institute of Physics compound at U.P. Diliman.
The orientation involved listening to lectures about the purpose of PAWS, its objectives and hsitory; inspecting the various animal cages where dogs and cats in various stages of quarantine were displayed; interacting with fellow volunteers to put together a project, and basically getting to know the group.
It wa refreshing to be surrounded by so many affectionate animal lovers and hundreds of dogs and cats in various stages of catatonic languor and manic excitement. There was even a special area where six dogs from Iligan City were rescued by PAWS volunteers when Typhoon Sendong hit the Mindanao area.
It's obvious that animal rights still have a long way to go in the Philippines, though. R.A. 8485 was approved by both houses of congress and signed into law by then President Fidel V. Ramos in 1998, but Ms. Cabrera said that a very important provision for the banning of cock fighting in the Philippines was left out as PAWS, which was lobbying for the passage of the bill, had to bow to the reality that the majority of legislators were sympathetic to the national practice of cock fighting.
|One of six (6) dogs rescued from the Typhoon|
Sendong disaster that hit Iligan City
"We know how to pick and choose our battles," she said.
Other areas of concern are pet mills in such places as Tiendesita's in Pasig City, Cartimar in Pasay City, and Arranque Market in the City of Manila which not only sell pets in unsafe and stressfulconditions, but also act as conduits for the trafficking of Philippine and foreign wildlife.
On a more basic level, PAWS, which only has four full-time staff members headed by Ms. Cabrera, is trying through its volunteers, to instill a culture of caring for animals in the PAWS tradition, as the volunteers end up being PAWS' frontliners and ambassadors. Among the policies they are trying to instill are:
- Animals who will be admitted are onluy tjhose who have been rescued from cruelty or neglect with the specific aim of filing corresponding criminal charges against animal offenders. "We try not to "just rescue" without the filing of charges. Filing of charges is important in preventing furure crimes from being committed against animals," the PAWS volunteer guidelines for animal rescue and admission says.
- Animals who are in severe distress will be admitted. For example a cat whose front leg was run over. In other words, any injured live animal who is in pain and may be still admitted.
- Not all animals in distress can be admitted when the quarantine kennels are full or the shelter has reached maximum capacity.
And so with all of this in mind, I am basically committing myself to eight hours of service a month, cleaning dog and cat cages, writing about this whenever I can, helping to spread the word by talking to groups of people and raising funds. Why do I do this? It's simple. I feel for all dogs when they wag their tails, and look at me with their limpid brown eyes with silent entreaty. In fact even when they are mad, I still feel affection for them.
Cats are cool, too. They are so elegantly oblivious to you; so royally fascinating. They rub against your leg, arching their backs with their tails curled high. They languidly groom themselves with their raspy tongues. They jump from ground to tree branch in the flick of an eye.
Here in the PAWS facility, they have hundreds of cats and dozens of dogs. It should be a fun period (but hard work, too) for this animal lover. I am looking forward to it.
The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) website may be accessed at this link (http://paws.org.ph/site/1/default.aspx).
(By Chanda Shahani)