Philippine Daily Inquirer

Help the (stray) beasts, animal advocates urge bets

- By Annelle Tayao-Juego

ANIMAL welfare advocates have urged candidates to consider the plight of their voiceless four-legged “constituen­ts” and provide safe shelters for stray dogs and cats.

Beebom Aquino and Angela Dominique Bassig, of animal-welfare groups Hope for Strays in the Philippine­s and Cara (Compassion and Responsibi­lity for Animals), lamented that dogs and cats in Metro Manila were routinely euthanized in city pounds due to the lack of space to house the animals.

In an interview with the INQUIRER, the two expressed hope the next administra­tion would provide a small portion of land in a province near the metropolis for a “no-kill” shelter for strays.

“For us, it’s a matter of giving them a safe, comfortabl­e place to live in, or for the sick ones to live out their remaining days,” said Bassig.

The two also host fundraisin­g events to help finance rescued dogs’ veterinary care.

“The put-to-sleep method (PTS or euthanasia) is part of many city ordinances concerned with managing strays in pounds,” said Aquino. “We, however, are personally against this.”

Under Republic No. Act 8485 (the Animal Welfare Act of 1998) the killing of animals is allowed for specific reasons, one of which is animal population control. Euthanasia of strays is also allowed under RA 9482 (Anti-Rabies Act of 2007).

The two Pateros residents, who share a three-level townhouse with 18 adopted dogs and one cat, suggested that a one-hectare lot somewhere— such as Bulacan—would be a good place for strays.

“We’d be willing to manage it,” Bassig said.

Aquino and Bassig also volunteer at the Pateros municipal pound, which has become a no-kill facility since they began helping out there last June.

There’s only one caretaker, Mang Celso, they said. The mayor was supportive, added Bassig, but noted that the local government was short of funds for the pound’s maintenanc­e. They could only pay for the rent of the lot, which is privately owned.

More recently, Aquino and Bassig have been working closely with the Manila city pound.

It’s a partnershi­p that began when they adopted one of the dogs, a Labrador mix that was given up by its owner who was moving to the United States.

“Kobe was very aggressive when we first met him in the Manila pound. But the second we reached [the pound in] Pateros, he [started] walking with me and didn’t want to leave my side. The aggressive­ness went away. Now he lives with us,” said Aquino.

To date, the couple have put up for adoption 27 dogs from the Manila city pound. Pateros had 18 dogs when they took over last year—now they’re down to four, thanks to all the people who adopted pets.

Formerly full-time employees in the business process outsourcin­g (BPO) industry, Aquino and Bassig shifted careers to accommodat­e their animal welfare advocacy.

They also do rescue work. Alerted through Facebook, the two once went as far as Pangasinan to rescue an abused dog, fueled by nothing more than “passion,” Aquino said.

A Facebook page called Save Manila Pound Dogs and Cats was created by one associate early this year and received overwhelmi­ng response in the beginning, Aquino said.

“The problem with the Manila pound is that no one has stepped up again. The page reached over 1,000 members, but only 10 percent donated, and only 3 percent actively adopted,” she said. “The last batch of dogs we put up for adoption was in March.”

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