Animal welfare advocates are a special breed of people. Rescues are a daily occurrence, they will move mountains to increase awareness about spay-neuter and the importance of being kind to animals. They are also a marginalized group – often their advocacies are relegated to the bottom of the pile by government officials who do not think animal welfare issues deserve much attention.
It was such a group that gathered for the first time at Discovery Suites in Ortigas on October 3 2011. Organized by the three leading animal welfare groups in the country as part of celebration of World Animal Day or WAD, Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) and PAWS, the conference was dubbed as “Philippine Animal Advocates Conference for Transformation” or PAACT.
And a pact it was- as could be seen by the way the powerhouse cast of eleven local animal welfare groups bonded together during the brainstorming sessions. Representatives from the government and academic sector also joined in the discussions on how to improve Filipino society’s treatment of animals.
Nita Hontiveros-Lichauco, PAWS President and grand dame of the animal welfare movement in the Philippines , gave the opening remarks.
She described the arduous road towards getting a better deal for the animals, starting with the time when there was no law against animal cruelty in the years prior to 1998. During those days , the only incorporated animal welfare groups in the country were PAWS and the Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (or PSPCA which still holds office in Recto). Nita relayed how glad she was to see that there are now many animal welfare groups that have been organized by volunteers wanting to make a difference for the animals. She predicted a bright future for animals and the animal welfare movement in general.
Important topics such as “Animal Welfare Laws and Effective Prosecutions” were discussed . Atty Heidi Caguioa, AKF’s legal counsel, who has secured over 45 convictions against dog meat traders, spoke on how advocates could increase their chances of filing a successful case. PAWS’ Atty. Vicente Roy Kayaban also gave some helpful tips on documenting pieces of evidence and crafting affidavits.
A lively Q&A session followed after Nancy Cu-Unjieng of CARA and Anna Cabrera of PAWS’ presentations on “Successful Spay-Neuter Programs” and “Innovative Techniques for Humane Education”, respectively.
In line with the PAACT resolution to also coordinate disaster-relief operations, animal welfare groups launched joint disaster-relief operations in the still-flooded areas of Hagonoy and Calumpit, Bulacan last October 10 and 15.
Thanks to citizens who responded to the Pet Life Section’s appeal for donations in-kind for animal victims, the team of AKF-CARA-PAWS-Humane Society International (HSI) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has already given food relief to 128 cats, 211 dogs, 36 ducks, 6 cows, 6 guinea pigs, 8 rabbits, 131 chickens, 36 ducks, 12 geese, 11 goats and 32 pigs.
“In all the places we visited, the animals were all very hungry,” Sheila Frasco, a PAWS senior volunteer said, explaining that many dogs and cats were stranded on rooftops for a week and subsisting on whatever food scraps their guardians could spare. “Also, the people were always warm and welcoming. None of them resented our distributing relief for animals because they (the guardians of pets) said it was a big help to them – they loved their companion animals and were glad that they did not have to worry about sharing their rations with them anymore now that help has come.”
(see related news article and update on this link: Relief drive launched for animals stranded by floods