DOG DAZE By Kathy Moran (The Philippine Star)

Petlife continues to appeal to the Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala to retract the DA’s approval of the ghastly Administrative Order 21 (AO21).

I have been writing about AO 21, that the department of agriculture passed, which specifies the forms of euthanasia for dogs and cats. The AO allows for gassing (or tambucho gassing, to be exact, of dogs to death with the use of car exhaust fumes) as a form of euthanasia.

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) program director Anna Cabrera has presented various papers from the American Veterinary Medical Association and many international welfare organizations that state that gassing or use of carbon monoxide poisoning through vehicle exhaust fumes is cruel and inhumane.

Among the 14 members of the Committee on Animal Welfare (CAW), who drew up the rules and approved AO 21 for signing, believing that gassing via tambucho should be accepted as a way of humanely killing unclaimed stray dogs, are representatives of the following organizations and institutions:

1. Philippine Veterinary Medical Association

2. Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines (VPAP)

3. Philippine Animal Hospital Association (PA HA)

4. Philippine College of Canine Practitioners (PCCP)

5. Philippine Society of Animal Science (PSAS)

6. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)

7. Department of Education (DepEd)

8. Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA)

9. Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

10. National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS)

11. Philippine Society of Swine Practitioners (PSSP)

PAWS and the Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), who are members of CAW, voted against gassing.

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I was informed by Cabrera that some of the CAW members were not too pleased about their organization being mentioned in this column.

I would like the CAW members to know that I am appalled that anyone, in this day and age, can recommend tambucho gassing for the euthanasia of animals. And to think that they are called the committee on animal welfare (CAW). Perhaps they should change the name of the committee to the committee on animal cruelty (CAC)?

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Cabrera told me that the price of the drug for the euthanasia of pound dogs is the main issue here.

I was told that, according to the Philippine College of Canine Practitioners (PCCP) representative Oscar Macenas and Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines (VPAP)’s Pedrito Peralta, euthanasia using the preferred method of sodium pentobarbital will cost P200 per dog.

Of course, the provincial, city and municipal veterinarians argue that gassing via single-stroke engine tambucho is cheaper than buying Euthal, which costs a little less than P5 per dog.

But, cruelty is cruelty no matter what price tag it holds. I’ve been writing this column for almost 10 years now, and I am alarmed that the CAW believes that it is okay to be cruel if that is the cheaper way out.

Cruelty is never an option when we are talking of the welfare of our animals.

I asked other veterinarian-friends about the cost of the drug for euthanasia. I gathered that the cost of a bottle of 100ml Euthal (sodium pentobarbital) is about P3,000. A 10 kg Aspin will require a standard dosage of 5ml, hence, resulting in a cost of P150 per dog.

I was told that this cost could go even lower because there are discounts given to those who buy the drug in bulk — which is the case for most veterinarians. Consider also that dogs in pounds are often less than the 10kg average weight because these are dogs that have been collected from the streets — most are sick, underweight or suffering from malnourishment.

It is so cruel. Dogs that are tambucho-gassed whimper in pain and struggle for at least 10 minutes before they die. Exhaust vehicle fume-gassing is not recommended by any scientific or veterinary community anywhere in the world because it is inhumane.

I was also told that Peralta said that private practitioners don’t use gassing in any form as a euthanasia method at their clinics; and that they would “not recommend it.” The tambucho-gassing option was put there as an option for the budget-strapped city pounds.

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Since AO 21 is quite long, I have opted to print a few excerpts, which are pertinent to the gassing of dogs and cats.

“Section 6: Approved methods of euthanasia

“Euthanasia shall only be performed by a duly licensed veterinarian.

“6.1 Non-inhalant (Barbiturate)

“ 6.2 Inhalants

“ 6.2.a Carbon Monoxide

“6.2.a.a Carbon monoxide produced by any gasoline powered engine or commercially compressed carbon monoxide may be used.

“6.2.a.b The chamber shall be designed that the animals inside are not too crowded and could be viewed from the outside.

“6.2.b Carbon Dioxide

“6.2.b.a Carbon dioxide is acceptable for euthanasia in appropriate species.

“6.2.b.b Compressed carbon dioxide gas in cylinders is the only recommended source of carbon dioxide because the inflow to the chamber can be regulated precisely.

“6.2.b.c Carbon dioxide generated by other methods such as dry ice, fire extinguishers or chemical means (e.g. antacids) is unacceptable.

“Section 7. The agents and methods of euthanasia for animals

“Cats and dogs (domestic and wild) barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, carbon dioxide (in cylinder), carbon monoxide (from a car exhaust using gasoline engine), potassium chloride, magnesium sulfate in conjunction with general anesthetics, gunshot.”