Friday, 6 May 2011


By Khrysta Imperial Rara

We had Luis Buenaflor of Animal Kingdom Foundation as guest on Kwentuhang Pets Atbp last April 28. The discussion centered on what Luis called "the tambucho murders" or the killing of unclaimed stray dogs in pounds through carbon monoxide poisoning using exhaust fumes of vehicles. This was already a big issue last year when a video of dogs being gassed somewhere in southern Philippines circulated in the Net. After the animal welfare groups campaigned to end it, the Committee on Animal Welfare voted to put a stop to tambucho gassing. Last month, most committee members voted to bring it back. It is important to note that most CAW members are veterinarians who are expected to look out for the animals.

Some of the highlights of that discussion:

- The Animal Welfare Act (RA 8485) of 1998 has no implementing rules and regulations (IRR) yet. This is truly ridiculous. How can a law be effective without IRR? No wonder this law is not functioning! This, I think, is the height of incompetence. The IRR should be done within a year after a law is passed. Luis brought up the issue of legality of the CAW which has been in existence for more than 10 years now. To come up with the IRR, Government is supposed to
consult with the different stakeholders, work out issues and find solutions. In this particular issue, animal groups want the clause allowing tambucho gassing taken out due to the inhumane nature of the act.

Before the program, I spoke to CAW member Dr, Karlo Gicana of the UP Veterinary Hospital. He said tambucho gassing will be temporary and will be taken out eventually. He said they just want to give the local government units (lgu) time to work out a program and find a budget for the alternatives to the local way of using carbon monoxide fumes to kill dogs. Problem is, just how much time is needed to do this? The IRR, which should have been done in one year, is still unfinished after more than 12 years! What if the lgu's can't get their act together and continue gassing the dogs since it's allowed anyway?

- Most members of the CAW are government agencies. They outnumber the animal welfare groups - only PAWS and PSPCA are members. Where's the democracy in that? Times are changing and so are people's attitudes toward animals. Changes in the composition of the CAW have to be made to allow more animal groups like AKF and CARA (Care and Responsibility for Animals) to speak up for the public. In fact, there should be more members from the public at large rather than from the government. There should only be one or two government agencies to take care of regulatory mechanisms.

- A listener texted that government should give more support to the animal groups and find humane ways to deal with the animals in whatever issue. I agree. Killing animals SHOULD be the LAST RESORT to be done only when there are absolutely no other alternatives. Killing another being, whether human or other, hardens the heart and is plain cruel.

- Luis said the long-term solution to the stray dog problem is ADOPTION, SPAY AND NEUTER and RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERSHIP. To this I would add HUMANE EDUCATION which should be incorporated in the curricula of all public and private schools in the primary and secondary school levels.

- Lastly, I think it's about time that universities offering veterinary programs review their curricula and include courses on animal rights and welfare as well as alternative medicine for the animals. (UP offers a course on acupuncture for animals.) They should study the trends in many universities abroad which NO LONGER practice dissection and vivisection in their laboratories. Alternatives exist now, they should be studied and eventually implemented.

I wrote about the tambucho gassing issue in September last year. Sad to say, an issue which I thought had already been resolved has resurfaced. But it's not too late and the animals need your support. SAY NO TO TAMBUCHO GASSING!


By Crysta Imperial Rara

When I told a colleague that the government was gassing stray dogs, she exclaimed: “Gassing…you mean, like the Nazis used to do?”

I fell silent. That thought had never occurred to me. The tambucho gassing of stray dogs has been in the news for some time now. The animal protection groups have launched a campaign to pressure officials to put a stop to it.

The issue has even reached the international scene – more than two thousand five hundred people, including citizens of other countries, have signed a petition addressed to the Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala asking him to rescind Administrative Order 21 (AO21).

AO 21 states that officials should consider “the freedom of animals from physical discomfort and pain and their freedom from fear and distress during the conduct of euthanasia.”

Yet in a subsequent paragraph, AO 21 allows euthanasia in the form of shooting by firearm for dogs, cats, horses, pigs, lizards, snakes, ruminants, non-human primates and marine mammals. Decapitation will be done to euthanize rabbits while birds will be subjected to cervical dislocation.

Another accepted form of euthanasia for stray animals is asphyxiation via carbon monoxide from motor vehicles.

In the petition authored by Ted Teodoro, an animal rights advocate based in New Jersey, a description of the agony experienced by the animals being gassed leaves no doubt about the brutality of the act: “What follows is the frantic clawing of the animal, its plaintive cries for help, its desperate search for a safe corner. The animal rolls and twitches. At some point, the body no longer responds to the animal's natural instincts but some level of consciousness lingers on. This process can take as long as fifteen minutes.”

I watched the video shot by a concerned citizen from Kidapawan in Cotobato Province. The scenes still haunt me – the dogs were struggling to escape from the holding pen, crying out in fear and panic just before they were mercilessly killed. Once the gas was turned on, I couldn’t help but feel furious and helpless as they wailed and clawed to get out of the metal box.

It definitely was no humane death. I wonder if the officials in the Committee on Animal Welfare (CAW), most of whom are veterinarians, really know what the words euthanasia, humane or merciful mean.

They say these methods will help reduce the cost of euthanasia by injection. Putting a dog to sleep by injecting Euthal or sodium pentobarbital costs about two hundred pesos per dosage for medium-sized dogs. But the drug can be acquired at a lower cost if bought by the bulk.

It’s a better way to put down a dog because the drug relaxes him first. So there is no panic and struggle on the part of the animal.

The Philippine Animal Welfare (PAWS) and the Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) voted against AO21 but they were outnumbered.

Perhaps we should take a look at the curriculum in our veterinary schools. Are the graduates taught ethics and kindness toward animals? I’ve had my share of experiences with vets who no doubt love their work and the animals. I’ve run into many who misdiagnose diseases, give the wrong medicines or don’t care about the animal’s comfort or welfare.

But vets who recommend gassing, shooting, decapitation and cervical dislocation are another breed. There’s too much pain in gassing; shooting may be off the mark so the animal will suffer; decapitation is inhumane and cervical dislocation, which means breaking the neck or snapping the spine – is too medieval.

Besides, where’s the humanity in all this? Are we producing vets who know the techniques but have no heart?

The Nazis gassed the Jews. The world condemned it. Our government is gassing and killing the animals inhumanely. We should also all condemn it. Sign the petition and help end the brutal killing of our animals.


Published in my column, AnimalSpeak, in ANIMAL SCENE magazine Sept 2010


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Ang Mundo ng Kweba


By Khrysta Imperial Rara


What an interesting day for Kwentuhang Pets atbp! We began the program with a phone patch with Trixie Concepcion of Earth Island Institute Phils. She updated us on the anti-dolphin captivity campaign and said Manila Ocean Park has issued a statement that it will not bring in dolphins for a dolphin show. They must have backed off from their original plan after an aggressive Facebook Campaign led by Earth Island to appeal for the non-inclusion of dolphins in the park. Trixie explained that schools like Miriam and De La Salle have pledged that their students will boycott any dolphin and whale show in the Philippines.


An on-air discussion of caves and the need to protect and manage them and the flora and species inside and around them proved to be an eye-opener. I must admit I was never really drawn to caving because I found these places to be too dark and uninteresting. I’ve visited only about 4 caves – in Bicol, Bohol, Bulacan and in Italy. I don’t remember much about them except that in Bicol, I had to rush out of the underground cave because I felt suffocated. I recall seeing the bats hanging upside down in a cave in Bulacan, their droppings or guano forming a huge pile on the cave floor. In Italy, I visited an underwater cave when it was low tide and I was too uncomfortable in the dark.

But our episode last April 14 changed all that. I learned from our guests Anson Tagtag and Ofel Espayos of the DENR Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) that the cave is a world in itself, with a unique ecosystem.

Blind fish, blind shrimps, blind bats, stalagmites and stalactites form part of this world that the DENR would like to protect from hunters. Hunting is illegal in the Philippines, except for the tribes or katutubo. As an animal protection advocate, I don’t like the idea of hunting particularly if it’s for sport.

Guests Anson and Ofel believe that ecotourism could put a stop to the practices that destroy our caves since it will offer an alternative source of income to the local communities. But it must be well managed to ensure that the visitors do not go over the cave’s carrying capacity, or the maximum population of a particular species (in this case, human) that the habitat can support.

The next time I get to visit a cave, it will be from a different perspective. Perhaps this time curiosity and wonder will win over my mild claustrophobia.

bat cave

Monday, 2 May 2011


                                                By Crysta Imperial Rara


There’s a new radio show in town. I conceptualized it in 2009 and finally, last October, it had its premier broadcast. The one-hour program titled “Kwentuhang Pets at Iba Pa”, goes on air every Thursday from 1-2 pm at DZUP 1602 kHz (AM).  It aims to make people aware that attitudes toward animals are changing and our fellow creatures are now viewed more as friends or part of the family and not just mere property. It seeks to enlighten listeners about new trends around the world which revolve around putting a stop to cruelty against animals.

The program is different because it’s the first of its kind in the country. No other radio program tackles animal issues. Another unique feature is that since it’s in DZUP, there are no commercials and students get an opportunity to do radio work hands-on, like writing and reading animal news. We’ve also got live audio streaming on the web which allows animal protection advocates to listen in from all over the world.

The success of radio programs on the environment and alternative health care indicates that the people’s awareness of non-traditional issues is expanding and they are ready to welcome new ideas into their lives. The growing existence of animal rights and welfare groups in the country and the expanding coverage of stories on animals (the campaign to stop travelling dolphin shows, features on rescued eagles and other wild birds, the training of local dogs to make them into security K-9, rescues of stray cats and dogs etc…) is additional proof that Filipinos are changing their attitudes toward the animals.
                One hour is never enough to talk about animal issues but at least it can raise interest and curiosity that may inspire the listener to act in favour of the animals. The program starts with a five-minute discussion of a Thought for the Day that aims to trigger insights and realizations about the different roles that animals play in our lives. Some of the quotations we have discussed are:

1.     Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals(Winston Churchill)
        The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. (Mahatma Gandhi)

3.    An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. (Martin Buber)

4.    Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. (Roger Caras)

5.  Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. (Anatole France)

The second segment features Animals In The News here and abroad. It includes scientific discoveries of new species, rescues of animals, protests against animal cruelty, etc.

            Following this segment is a lengthy discussion on the topic for the day. My co-host Malotz Quodala and I explore interesting topics and ask in-depth questions. For a clearer picture of what we’ve tackled so far, here’s a list of the guests and topics we’ve done since the show began to air three months ago:

Oct. 7 –  Topic: Marine Mammals

            The guest, Earth Island Institute Regional Director Trixie Concepcion, discussed the cruelty behind travelling dolphin shows as well as dolphin and whale shows in oceanariums here and abroad. She explained that marine mammals like the dolphins, whales and sea lions are used to swimming free in the oceans and not in steel tanks that limit their movements and stress them out. We discussed former Flipper series trainer Ric O’Barry’s brilliant documentary, The Cove, which documented the yearly mass slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. (Everyone should watch it- it’s like a James Bond movie complete with secret weapons and breathtaking suspense.)

Oct. 14 – Topic: Animal Welfare and the group Care and Responsibility for Animals (CARA)

            Vimla Mansukhani, who heads CARA’s Educational Outreach Program, believes that if you hurt an animal, you will suffer the same fate at the hands of another. Vimla talked about CARA’s main thrust which is the humane control of the dog and cat population through neutering and spaying. She stressed the need for compassion toward the animals as well as responsible pet ownership which includes making sure that the companion animal has access to basic needs like food, water, and exercise.

Oct. 21 - Topic: The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

            Guest Anna Hashim Cabrera recounted how she gave up a lucrative post in a private bank to follow her heart and help the animals. As head of the PAWS shelter for rescued dogs and cats, Anna knows just how depressing it is for a dog to remain in a shelter for years and not be adopted into a loving home. She talked about how to respond to dog behaviour problems. PAWS rehabilitates rescued dogs so they can be “re-homed”. But it’s much more difficult to get the cats adopted, she says. PAWS also has a Dr. Dog program that allows terminally-ill children to interact and have fun with well-trained and compassionate dogs.

Oct. 28 -   Topic: Animal Rights and the People’s Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA)

Lumped together under the umbrella of the animal protection movement,
animal rights and welfare groups work together to help animals in need and educate people about changing attitudes. PETA Campaigner Rochelle Regodon discussed the group’s campaigns and strategies, like the campaign to encourage people to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet. For this, PETA invites celebrities like Joaquin Phoenix, Pamela Anderson, Alyssa Milano as well as Chinchin Gutierrez in the Philippines to champion their cause. And their campaign is definitely working – more and more young people the world over are turning vegetarian.

Nov. 4 - Topic: Rescuing Dogs from the Illegal Dog-Meat Trade

            The Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF) has been in the news quite often because it actively pursues dog meat traders with the help of the Philippine National Police. Luis Buenaflor of the AKF believes that the dog meat trade is more of a business than a tradition. Several cases have already been filed against traders caught in the act of transporting dogs that have already been slaughtered or are about to be killed in violation of the Animal Welfare Law and the Anti-Rabies law. Luis said dog meat is not regular table fare for the Igorots – they eat a dog only when settling a blood feud. The dog is a peace offering because it is considered a member of the family. In nearby Baguio, however, the price for a dog can go all the way up to one thousand five hundred pesos. Luis also talked about the AKF shelter in Tarlac where some 500 dogs rescued from the dog meat trade are living their lives out in peace and comfort. It’s a no-kill shelter and there are no cages. The dogs live in pens where they can run around and socialize. His message for the listeners was a strong reminder – DON’T EAT DOGS.

Nov. 11 - Topic: The Joys of Birdwatching

            Happiness lies not in watching birds in cages but in seeing them fly free and go about their daily business. Wild Bird Club President Mike Lu shared his experiences from several years of birding or birdwatching and talked about how indiscriminate construction of malls and villages in bird habitats like forests and mangroves are destroying migration patterns and driving the birds away. The Philippines now attracts more birdwatchers from Japan and Europe who come here to see indigenous and migratory species.

Nov. 18 – Topic: Marine Wildlife

            Scuba diver, veterinarian and environmentalist AA Yaptinchay talked about the role of marine wildlife in the ecosystem and the need for a more sustainable use of marine resources. He cited pollution, unregulated tourism, incidental and non-targeted extraction of marine resources as well as the capture of marine mammals for use in the entertainment industry (oceanariums, shows, ocean parks, movies, etc) as the greatest threats to marine species. AA now operates an environment-friendly travel agency that promotes diving tours in the Philippines. He also set up the Marine Wildlife Watch, a website that disseminates information on marine mammal issues. He is actively helping in the campaign to stop the importation of two dolphins in Indonesia for a Christmas travelling dolphin show in the Araneta parking lot in Cubao.

            Nov. 24         - Topic: The Basics of Animal Care

            Companion animals like dogs and cats have to be cared for too, and Dr. Veronica Matawaran who heads the Veterinary Clinic at the University of the Philippines in Diliman explained how to groom animals and keep them healthy. She also talked about the various services offered by the UP Vet Clinic. Dr. Matawaran and some colleagues are now developing herbal products for animals to complement the gamut of pharmaceutical products now available in the market.

Dec. 2 - Topic: Alternative Remedies for Animals

            In line with the expanding consciousness of the times, more and more people are now seeking out alternative therapies or remedies for their animals. We had two guests who shared their experiences in this field. Dr. Jezie Acorda of UP Los Banos explained how he does acupuncture on horses, pigs, dogs and cats and how these animals respond to the treatment. Dr. Acorda said the UP Vet Clinic will soon be offering acupuncture treatments to its animal clients.

Reiki healer Leng Velasco, on the other hand, uses only her hands to pass on energy to the animal. Reiki is a Japanese form of healing wherein a person is attuned to universal energy by a reiki master. Leng pointed out that there are no tools needed to do this kind of healing. She recounted how she healed her dog Duke who was dying of thyroid cancer two years ago. Duke, now 10 years old, is still very much alive today.

Before the year 2010 ends, we will be tackling the following topics: how to spend Christmas with your animal companions, adopting a vegetarian diet for the holidays, and protecting your animals from the stress of New Year fireworks. Listen to the program on your radio or follow it online. If you have questions, suggestions or reactions, email me at or send your text messages to 0921.416.5538.

            HAPPY NEW YEAR or as the French say, Bonne Année!

Author with Exec. Producer Mel Estonilo

Published in my column AnimalSpeak in the ANIMAL SCENE magazine, Jan. 2011 

Kwentuhang Pets Atbp DZUP 1602

This is the first radio program in the country that focuses on animals. Host Khrysta Imperial Rara is a print, broadcast and online journalist, animal protection advocate and faculty member of the Dept. of Journalism in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. 

Co-host Malotz Quodala is a legal researcher, researcher of History as well as a media and image consultant.

Executive Producer Mel Estonilo is a veteran radio journalist. DZUP is managed by the Dept of Broadcast Communication at the College of Mass Communication in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. It is a member of the KBP .

The program, which airs every Thursday at 1-2pm, can be accessed through live streaming at

Kwentuhang Pets Atbp is the first animal rights and welfare program in the Philippines. Its maiden broadcast was on Oct. 7, 2010. The program seeks to make people, specially Filipinos, aware that attitudes toward animals are changing all over the world. Animals are viewed more now as friends or part of the family and not just mere property or possessions. The program aims to enlighten people on changing trends around the world in order to stop cruelty toward animals. It also explores the world of companion animals, farm animals, laboratory animals and those exploited in the entertainment industry as well as wildlife from the point of view of experts and advocates.

Host Khrysta Imperial Rara (right) and co-host Malotz Quodala (left)
 with guest Dr. Mundita Lim, Director of DENR's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau