ASTURIAS Mayor Jose Antonio T. Pintor has so far been unable to explain why impounded dogs in his town were reduced to eating their dead companions.
Admittedly, the tragedy and horror are difficult to explain away. SunStar Cebu’s Nov. 5 editorial on the “Dead dogs of Asturias, Cebu” became the top story about the town in a Google search on Nov. 7, overtaking the eco-tourism destinations promoted in this third class municipality in the northern part of the Cebu Province.
As reported by Arvie N. Veloso in SunStar Cebu on Nov. 3, the town implemented last Sept. 2 the Dog Care and Anti-Rabies Ordinance of 2010. While the local pound staff carried out to the letter the capture and impounding of stray animals, the Pintor administration apparently overlooked that the efficient and humane operation of a pound is not akin to sweeping under the rug undesired litter and walking away without assuming more responsibility.
According to netizen Clara Isabelle, when citizens rescued and fed the remaining dogs on Nov. 2, it was too late for about 15 dogs that had died from hunger and neglect. Her post on Facebook sums up the inexplainable cruelty of the Asturias ordinance carried out to protect humans from possibly rabid stray animals but inutile in championing the welfare of animals bred and neglected also by humans.
Posted Clara Isabelle: “If you can’t do it right and handle the obligation, stop what you are doing and try to revisit your ordinance!”
Tragically, Pintor isn’t the only local government official with a myopic reactionary attempt to implement Republic Act (RA) 9482 or The Anti-Rabies Act of 2007.
Last Nov. 4, animal rescuer Minerva Gerodias posted in her personal Facebook page a call for Samboan officials to sponsor at least a yearly project for spaying and neutering to manage the worsening overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats in the town.
Gerodias has posted many times to appeal for persons or families to adopt abandoned or maltreated animals. In Samboan, many puppies and kittens are dumped beside roads and exposed to the risk of maiming or death. Gerodias posted that animal rescuers and pet owners need help in shouldering veterinarians’ expenses and medicine through regular campaigns offering free services, such as the program conducted by the Talisay City Government to spay or neuter pets without charges or with subsidized fees for local residents.
Aside from the obvious function to hold stray animals and prevent them from endangering public health, the Asturias pound should be managed with an inclusive and sustainable program to educate citizens about animal welfare, as provided for by RA 8485 or The Animal Welfare Act of 1998.
The Pinto administration must define the responsibilities of the town’s poundmaster to ensure that not just any Juan Tamad gets unlimited power over the lives of hapless cats and dogs. The poundmaster must understand his or her responsibilities to the creatures who are strays or abandoned animals due to their owners’ negligence and irresponsibility.
Ensuring adequate food, drink, and sanitary surroundings are minimum prerequisites for a pound. The poundmaster and staff should determine which of the impounded animals are feral or owned, diseased or healthy, fixed or unfixed, among other important considerations.
Enforcing a period for redeeming captured pets and paying fees for their care should be part of a public pound’s yearlong campaign to educate citizens about animal welfare and responsible pet ownership.
Local government units should explore networking with animal welfare groups, veterinarians, and other persons supporting campaigns for spaying and neutering animals; adopting impounded animals; and supporting animal rescues.
Appreciating the need for humans to co-exist with other living creatures will go a long way in preventing the recurrence of tragedies of maltreated and abandoned animals in Asturias, Samboan, and many parts of the country.