It will take a stronger law to prevent animal cruelty

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HEART FOR ANIMALS. Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) spokesperson Heart Evangelista believes there’s a need to amend the Animal Welfare Act. Here she speaks her mind at the recent Senate hearing on the AWA. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The stories are enough to reduce animal lovers to tears. There was Popeye, the dog whose owner poured kerosene all over him last month and set him on fire to allegedly manage a flea infestation. (Popeye eventually died.)

There was the picture that went viral on Facebook (God bless social networking) in March this year, of a dog in a sack tied to the back of an SUV; the establishment under whose name the vehicle was allegedly registered, Apollo International Cagayan Trading Corporation, was located, but caretakers at the house refused to comment, and the fate of the dog remains unknown.

THE PICTURE that Jerzon Senador posted on Facebook—and got a warrant issued for his arrest for animal cruelty

Most recently, there was the video of the guard at the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) in Cavite who, despite the grainy quality of the video, was obviously beating a whimpering puppy; school authorities claimed the guard was just shooing (!) the dog away.

Earlier this year, in what was probably the most brazen and shameless case yet, several Korean nationals were held last March 30 after they were caught running an Internet dog-fighting operation in Laguna. The infuriating fact was, they had already been busted just three months earlier, Dec. 2, operating a similar ring in Cavite.

After some months in captivity, the Koreans were recently found guilty, and fined a laughable P5,000 for violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and P6,000 for violating the anti-gambling law. The incredible part is, they are now suing the National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Immigration.

“We see cruelty everywhere,” says Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) executive director Anna Cabrera. “On social networking sites, people are bragging about being cruel to animals. As much as awareness about these issues has increased, the avenues by which demented people can  ‘advertise’ their acts of cruelty have also increased.”

Still, despite such setbacks, the mainly private NGO-led campaign to amend the outdated AWA continues. Last Sept. 4, a number of supporters, many clad in T-shirts that declared, “Amend the Animal Welfare Act,” showed up at the Senate for a much-awaited hearing led by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, which, in this country, is in charge of animal welfare issues.

THE DOG behind the SUV, a picture that went viral on Facebook. Sadly, the animal’s fate remains unknown.

On the agenda were proposed amendments to the AWA, Republic Act 8485, “An Act to Promote Animal Welfare in the Philippines,” which became law on Feb. 11, 1998.

The original act basically put the responsibility of policing any “pet shop, kennel, veterinary clinic, veterinary hospital, stockyard, corral, stud farm or stock farm, or zoo for the breeding, treatment, sale or trading, or training of animals” in the hands of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), and creates a Committee on Animal Welfare attached to the Department of Agriculture.

 

Torture and neglect

In terms of animal cruelty, however, what the average Filipino should be at least vaguely aware of is Section 6: “It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horse-fights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare.”

In short, strictly speaking, if your neighbor beats his dog, or fails to feed it, he or she is violating a national law. Then again, who’s afraid of the consequences? Certainly not the Korean dog-fighters, for example, who probably never even blinked at the fine.

That’s because Section 8 of the current Act specifies: “Any person who violates any of the provisions of this Act shall, upon conviction by final judgment, be punished by imprisonment of not less than six (6) months nor more than two (2) years or a fine of not less than one thousand pesos (P1,000.00) nor more than five thousand pesos (P5,000.00), or both at the discretion of the Court.”

“A society that treats its animal with love and respect is always orderly and peaceful,” notes director on legal affairs and legal counsel of PAWS, lawyer Roy Kayaban.

“However, as in every beginning, hitches or defects appear, and the Animal Welfare Act has its own imperfections; hence, the need to amend the law.  This law has also been tested in the various cases litigated by PAWS, and these defects have appeared.”

Some of these defects, and the limited jurisdiction, have already resulted in some problems. “It is the private organizations which are taking the lead, because all these years the BAI has not filed a single court case for violation of the AWA,” says Cabrera. Meanwhile, PAWS has filed over a dozen cases. In 2001, PAWS and another animal welfare NGO, Earth Island Institute, filed a case against Ocean Adventure for failure to secure a permit for the dolphin show.

In a nutshell, the case didn’t progress because whales and dolphins, the ruling read, were not covered by the AWA, but were considered “fish/fishery/aquatic products,” covered only by the Fisheries Code of 1998. Read: it’s okay to be cruel to “food”—or better yet, dolphins aren’t, uh, animals.

Cabrera and Kayaban both spoke at the hearing in front of the Senate Committee. Among the amendments the groups was pushing for were, in summary, to make the Act cover “all animals of land, sea and air”; to make it unlawful to use animals for entertainment and to perform circus acts and tricks; and to make rescuers of animals in distress immune to liability, provided the act is not seen as an offense.

This last item came about after volunteers of a Cavite animal welfare group were actually charged with theft for rescuing a maltreated dog.

Heftier penalties

Most significantly, PAWS is pushing for heftier penalties: imprisonment of 10-12 years and a fine of P300,000 if the animal dies; imprisonment of eight to 10 years and a fine of P200,000 if the animal survives but is severely injured and needs human intervention to sustain its life; and imprisonment of six to eight years and a fine of P100,000 for subjecting any animal to cruelty, maltreatment or neglect, but without causing its death or incapacitating it to survive on its own.

Sen. Pangilinan himself expressed openness to the increased fines, based on the gravity of the offense. “Baka pagtawanan lang ng mga Koreano yung P50,000 fine, if they make millions a day,” he said during the hearing.

Proposed amendments to the AWA have been filed before the hearing. Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who was represented at the hearing by her staff, has filed three bills: SB 1691, making it unlawful to allow pets to run unattended on the streets, batting for more animal shelters, and making abandonment unlawful, as well; SB 1942, which increases the imprisonment period to two to five years, and the fines to P20,000-P50,000; and 3154, which reiterates SB 1942’s proposals in the light of the dog-in-a-sack incident.

Also present at the hearing was Sen. Gregorio Honasan, whose proposed bill, SB 3222, pushes for longer prison time of four to six years, and an increase in penalty of P30,000.

The hearing ended with the legislators asking for additional information from the representatives, including PAWS, and encouraging private and government sector to work together. PAWS spokespersons, such as actress Heart Evangelista and model Joey Mead, were also asked to say a few words.

“We are inclined to strengthening the Animal Welfare Act, but we need to ensure that penalties for animal cruelty are not higher than penalties for inflicting injuries upon persons,” concluded Sen. Pangilinan. “This matter would have to be studied more closely… Still, if we are to move away from impunity and a culture of violence, then we must include the animals.”

“Legislators have taken the initiative to amend the law,” Kayaban says, “and we, as the people in the field who have tested the existing law and have firsthand knowledge on its defects, are helping re-craft it into a more perfect and workable piece of legislation.”

Now, with the government concerned with other seemingly more “pressing” issues like disaster management, it’s a waiting game for this law that urgently needs to be updated.

In the meantime, animal lovers in the Philippines would do well to help lobby, create awareness, be vigilant, and let their lawmakers know that this is indeed an important matter.

“We’re just up against time limits,” Cabrera says. “Often, animals are relegated to the bottom of priorities because, as they say, animals don’t vote… But when we protect the animals, we also protect our society against violence. People who have been known to hurt animals move on to hurt human beings. Widening our circle of compassion to include the animals is not just for sentimental reasons. It makes perfect sense. Animals are connected to people. What happens to them happens to us.”

What to do when you see animal abuse

IF YOU see animal cruelty in progress (such as persons slaughtering or selling and buying dogs for the dog meat trade, or inflicting harm on animals), please report the incident immediately to your barangay officials and/or to tel. 117. PAWS needs citizens as witnesses to help file charges so that we can prevent this cruelty from happening again. (Call PAWS at tel.  4751688; e-mail philpaws@yahoo.com.)

In order to prosecute criminals for the violation of the AWA, PAWS needs complete details (date, time, exact location, people involved). If you are not willing to execute an affidavit, please recommend another eyewitness who will.

If the persons committing the crime are not known, the best we can do is alert police officers to the exact location in the hope that they will be catching the criminals in the act. Kindly call 117 immediately, and take down the name of the one receiving your call. From experience at PAWS, all “117 officers” treat these reports seriously and send a mobile patrol right away (but it would still be good to take down the name).

For cases where neglect is ongoing, you could e-mail full names and complete address to philpaws@yahoo.com, and PAWS can send an official letter to them through the barangay. (Please provide the contact info of the barangay captain/officers.)

To file charges, you need an affidavit (go to paws.org.ph for a sample) detailing the circumstances behind the case. There are no expenses involved other than a filing fee of about P100 when you go to the Prosecutor’s Office. PAWS volunteer lawyers can help you review your affidavit.

Report them to the barangay so that the barangay will likewise be watching over them. Furnish barangay officials with a copy of RA 8485 (The Animal Welfare Act).

If your barangay officials refuse to act during the time that you reported the crime to them, please execute an affidavit re: their names, what happened, etc. so that we can file administrative charges against them.

PAWS needs and encourages everyone to take action: report cases and/or file charges against cruelty. Verbally complaining (even through e-mail or Facebook posting) is not enough. (From the PAWS website, paws.org.ph)

P.S. In case you are wondering, cases can progress—but you can’t just sit and wring your hands, or expect overloaded animal welfare groups to handle everything themselves.

In October 2011, after almost two years, Marian Yutuc of Montalban got justice for her dog Kevin, who was beaten to death by brothers Christopher and Gilbert Babe when she wouldn’t hand the dog over to them for pulutan. The Babe brothers were convicted by the Rizal court to serve time in jail.

Jerzon Senador of Calamba, Laguna, who brazenly posted the picture of the puppy he hung on a clothesline on Facebook, is now at large, after a warrant was issued for his arrest last April. Offenses are bailable—but it’s some consolation to know that these scumbags are marked for life by a criminal record.

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  • sodo2011

    Set the law strictly for cats and dogs only. You cannot cover all the animals. Imagine a farmer plowing the field with his carabao? Will that not fall in your law? How about a horse pulling a cart with some people riding in it? Would you think tht is also a cruelty to animal especially when the owner whips the horse to gain more speed?

    How about the animals in the street? Would you care to take them home? have you done that? In 2003 when I was in California, they raided a gamefowl farm. Do you know what they did to the rest of the roosters? They euthenized them all. Is that not cruelty to the max?

    Have you thought of buying a wide forest and set all animals free (maybe like Lolong’s way)? Imagine all tigers, lions and other creatures set free in that place. Do not feed them for that is their habitat and they know how to live. Did you know what the late Marcos did in Palawan? Isn’t it cruel not to take care of those animals? Where were you (your org) when these animals need you most? Is it because there is no cow to milk there?…just asking :).

    • For_Social_Justice

      Actually, the majority of well defined animal welfare laws have covered all animals, with very strict differentiations between pets, livestock, marine animals, fish used for food, as well as banning the use of animals in cruel and unusual performances; as well as the standards of care, from feeding to grooming to death. Beasts of burden such as carabaos or horses have different standards of care and decency – all animals have been adequately covered and enforced in other jurisdictions. 

      Euthanasia in of itself is not ‘cruelty to the max.’ It is the end result of a society that has no standards and allows animals to run wild, not punish owners for abandonment and allow irresponsible breeders, puppy mills and pet shops like Bioresearch et al. to sell animals to irresponsible owners who have no fear of punishment. Euthanasia is the result of a society where there are no laws to ensure adequate animal shelters and where  no-one will adopt wayward animals or abandoned pets because they share the attitude that any animal on the street is worthless. The cruelty is not in euthanasia. The cruelty rests in our actions that allow it to happen. That’s why we have so many animals on the street.

      I see that you also feel that it is a terrible world where euthanasia is the least cruel option for animals.

      But a strong animal welfare law that covers all animals, all actions and defines clear standards, harsh penalties and adequately enforced will minimize euthanasia. I would add that in California and in Australia, animals are euthanized in the 100,000s per year. Mostly due to abandonment and puppy mills. These jurisdictions are considering banning pet stores and puppy mills to minimize euthanasia. I know that you do care about animal welfare. If we want to maximize their welfare, we need a strong law, the very same that Heart Evangelista and PAWS is fighting for to prevent animals being illegally used or abandoned.

      If you do care about animal welfare, especially livestock there are a few NGOs that focus on the welfare of livestock and the commercial exploitation of animals that you can join and support, such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). They do work here in the Philippines too. PAWS seems to focus more on domestic animals and animals in our society; but that is no less worthy an arena or a fight – an unspeakable amount of cruelty continues against pets and street animals. In many ways, it is the most visible and best place to start.

  • calipso_2100

    Ang o-OA ng mga to.

    What’s so cruel about hanging a pup on the clothesline with those pins? Don’t you know that mother dogs “hold” those pups by their teeth when they need to transport them?  Even pups as big as the one in the pic, are still “carried” by their mother by biting thru the front teeth.  And that’s more painful than those clips.What’s so cruel about placing the dog in a sack while transported at the back of the suv?  Kahit nga tao kumakabit sa mga sasakyan. Nakakahinga naman ung aso.  Pumunta kayo sa probinsya, hulihin nyo yung mga nag bebenta ng mga hayop doon.  Mas grabe pa ang pag transport nila sa mga hayop doon.

    How bout the pigs about to be made pork; chicken about to be dressed; cows about to be turned into beef cubes?  Fish caught by hook or by net then choked to death?  Cge hulihin din ninyo mga mangingisda.

    Yes, animals have “some” rights.  Pero hwag naman maging OA.

    Kung gusto nyo talagang ma enjoy ng mga hayop ang rights nila.  Then ban owning of any animal including pets.  Ban zoos. Animals have to be free.  They are not supposed to be caged, tied, fed artificial food. They have their habitat and that’s where they have to be.  Except maybe dogs because they have evolved to be part of human “packs”.

    • For_Social_Justice

      There is a clear distinction between animal cruelty and pet ownership that involves responsibly caging cats at night and feeding them pet food. 

      There is no ‘over acting’ in pushing for a stricter and more definitive law.  There are absolutely no standards of decency under the current law. We have cockfighting, dog fighting, dogs are cooked for food and many appear to share the view that animals do not deserve any decent treatment whatsoever. This view is retrograde and has no place in a decent society.

      There is a difference in the standard of care in decent societies between animals for food (which still must also have standards of care and decency – such as being stunned before death, free range chickens for eggs) and animals that we have in the neighbourhood. 

      The test for cruelty is this: Would it be considered cruelty in the UK, US, Australia or New Zealand, where animal rights laws are clearly defined? In the above instances, the answer is yes, the examples were animal cruelty and the perpetrators should be punished severely.

      Furthermore, female dogs do not hold pups in that manner, cats do. It is not just about the pain of the pegs, it is the unspeakable cruelty of treating a domestic animal, a pet, as an object to be used and abused, to be humiliated and to be subjected to ridicule and pain. That is unacceptable and it reveals criminal tendencies and a reckless indifference to life in the perpetrator.

      Your views permit the casual and unnecessary cruelty against animals to continue in our society. Animals do not have voices. It is incumbent upon us to treat our pets and our livestock with decency. Ensuring animal rights and harsher penalties for offenders is not taking away chicken tinola or bacon. It is about ensuring decency in society and punishing the vilest members of society who have reckless indifference to life – whatever its form may be – or enjoy cruelty against voiceless animals.

  • ROVENDINO

    Never really understood why people need pets to take care of… instead of taking care of other human….

  • Victoria

    I live in a country where a duck stops traffic,  where motorists are prepared to slow down for a cat or a dog trying to get to the other side of the road. I was  flabbergasted when a restaurant chef was fined for inhumanely preparing a live lobster. And I thought my best friend went overboard when she lavishly celebrated her Golden Retriever’s 5th birthday. To me at that time, it’s all too much and corny. Until someone gave me a Siamese cat and Cocker Spaniel puppy. I got hooked after few weeks.  Animals taught me patience, and loyalty. I grew up in Ilocos where a country dog is just an animal, often unwanted or letting the drunk neighbor salivate for a pulutan. I thank Ms. Heart Evangelista for this movement. I manage an animal rescue center, and I can only say it’s really rewarding to save the lives of helpless animals. Mabuhay..

    • calipso_2100

      Continue funneling your funds for the poor animals while there are actually poor people, dying of starvation.

      • Victoria

         What business of yours if I spend my money on poor animals?

      • calipso_2100

        Absolutely none.  It’s just a stupid law to put too much emphasis in “caring” for animals but not even caring enough for humans.

        If you want to spend your money for animal welfare, go ahead.  But the government should not force everybody to have the same mindset as you by putting too OA laws for animal rights.

      • Victoria

         No one is forcing you to care for animals. No one is saying ‘care for animals and don’t care  about the humans. I care for my foster children first before rescuing animals. In fact, my foster children taught me to care for poor animals. Animals deserve to share our space, without us hurting or abusing them. I used to think like you, that the international SPCA and other animal welfare laws are OA… It’s not hard to look after animals. Try it.  Read Prov 12:10 even if you’re not religious.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/ECKT7EUMWYT7O4R6I6R42DCKFM Rick

        well… animals don’t murder, lie cheat and steal.  You worry about people, I’ll worry about the animals they cause to suffer

  • http://twitter.com/ernestonoel1 hopelovefaith

    heart evangelista is practicing to be politically inclined.  good.  with your romance brewing, you should learn francis escudero’s trade.

  • neverwint3r

    so is heart gonna marry escudero and then be used in the election campaign?

    and after a couple of years pag sawa na si escudero, annulment na?

  • MaySenseBa

    oh, that’s Heart Evangelista?! Grabe naman, konti nalang Nancy Castliongne na siya, tapos konting konti na lang kamukha na nya si Micheal Jackson before he passed.

    • calipso_2100

      Konti na lang at tatakbo na yang senador sa susunod na election.  Mr. & Mrs Escudero for senators. Ewww.

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