by Lara Baylosis
Canines Left for Dead: The Fate of Pets in 3rd World Countries
Family is forever, but when calamity strikes, would you save your pet? Just recently, photos of abandoned dogs who were left to die in floodwaters have circulated across the Internet and caused an uproar among concerned netizens.
Early in November, three consecutive tropical storms barrelled across the Philippines, with Typhoon Goni as the strongest. Tens of thousands of residents in eastern Metro Manila and neighboring provinces were forced to evacuate as floodwaters rose as high as electricity poles.
While some good souls moved heaven and earth to keep their furry family members safe, not many dogs and cats share the same fate. A lot of pets were left chained or caged, awaiting their imminent deaths. Although there was a potential risk of electrocution, stray animals had a slightly better chance of survival as they can swim and scramble onto something for dear life.
“If you can’t evacuate pets in calamity, at least unchain them.” – Philippine Animal Welfare Society
Typhoons rampaged Luzon one after the other, causing countless people to lose their homes and other hard-earned investments. While I admire the Philippine government for doing their utmost best in responding to the situation, they seem to have overlooked the fact that animals also suffered and desperately tried to survive the onslaught.
Dogs in Developing Nations Still Have a Long Way to Go
Up to this day, there are still many people across the globe who consider pets as liabilities once faced with an unbeatable foe — natural disaster, poverty, housing discrimination, and sometimes, the arrival of a newborn baby. But when it comes to developing nations, the plight of pets becomes even bleaker since the government lacks the resources to address animal welfare issues.
11 Million Strays and Counting
Last year, nearly 12 million cats and dogs roamed the streets, and many were killed point-blank in pounds, while others continue to suffer disease and hunger up to this day. According to PAWS, most strays used to be household pets that were thrown away by their owners simply because they could no longer afford to take care of them financially, physically, or emotionally.
Pet overpopulation is rampant in the Philippines because the government seldom fund spay-neuter programs. People who are struggling to make ends meet don’t have the resources to spay or neuter their pets in private veterinary clinics. Ultimately, this leads to an unending cycle where intact dogs roam and mate prolifically, producing more strays with compromised health.
300 Filipinos Go Rabid Each Year
Rabies is a fatal viral disease preventable by vaccine, but it continues to be a major public health threat in developing countries. The Philippines currently ranks 4th in terms of prevalence as the Department of Health reported 200 to 300 deaths each year.
Despite the government’s great strides to end rabies, irresponsible pet ownership has prevented them to bring these figures down. Filthy food and unhygienic living conditions can be reasons why dogs acquire rabies. Since stray dogs congregate over garbage piles, it can be easily transmitted from one animal to another.
It’s Okay to Kill and Eat Dogs
Despite the implementation of the Republic Act No. 8485, otherwise known as the Animal Welfare Act, many Filipinos can still get away with senseless violence and murder of innocent dogs. I, myself, have firsthand experience of what it is like to be a helpless pet parent.
Six years ago, I was shopping for aquarium supplies for my grandmother and saw a brown puppy with a sad expression. The puppy was a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a mongrel. Since the shop owner wanted to get rid of the “unmarketable” pup, he offered it to me for 3, 500 PHP ($70).
With no trace of hesitation, I took the puppy home, and we named him Barney. I owned many dogs in the past, but no one can compare how sweet and gentle Barney is! Everyone in our family is enamored with him, but much to their regret, my husband and I had to move to the city four months later.
As with other dogs, our furbaby felt stressed and unsure of his new environment. Barney stayed indoors most of the time, and he would only go out to poop or take a leak. When Barney finally came out of his shell and decided to play with our neighbor’s dog, a drunkard came out of nowhere and kicked him in the spine.
Very sadly, the authorities didn’t want to deal with it because “it’s just a dog.” Instead of helping us, we were threatened to be summoned if we hurt the laughing boozer. But that’s not all! The onlookers even asked my permission that they cook my dog.
I feel aggrieved with the outcome that sometimes I blame myself for what happened. The memory of my furbaby crying out of anguish and peeing uncontrollably remains vivid to me until now.
That being said, I guess the rule applies only in a handful of cities or when a complainant is a prominent person in society. If you travel to certain areas in Luzon, you’ll see that the dog meat trade and consumption are still rampant.
Mutts Have Little Value or None at All
Did you know that it is taboo to call yourself a pet parent in the Philippines? Many people would ask me rhetorically, “Are you the dam?”
After many years of being a writer, pet parent, and animal advocate, I realized that there are at least three kinds of dog owners:
- Rich people who love to flaunt their expensive canine breeds like Bentleys and Birkins
- Humans who make practical use of dogs but consider them expendable commodities in the face of adversity
- Responsible owners who share their homes with dogs closer than any other pet
In my country, owning a pedigree dog is a rare luxury. The majority of dogs in the Philippines are mongrels called Askals, which translates to “street dogs” in Tagalog.
Askals are stereotyped as dangerous, mangy dogs that always pose a risk of zoonotic diseases. While it does not apply to all street dogs, it should come as no surprise if it happens, given that most of these dogs are poorly socialized and face trauma every day.
Since you can easily pick up an Askal pup from a garbage heap, many people see Askals of little value. People may adopt them, but only because they needed a canine to guard their house or property, and these poor dogs will have to spend the rest of their short lives chained or caged.
And just like what happened during the onslaught of Typhoon Vamco, these dogs were left to die…
Lara Baylosis a freelance pet writer and product reviewer for Robotbox who does nothing without Baobao’s advice. Baobao is a seven-month-old pup who thinks she’s a fierce lion trapped in a Chow Chow’s body.