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


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