Patricia Bermudez-Hizon, Special to Yahoo! Southeast Asia

In city and municipal pounds across the country, they are and have been using a horrifying method of putting down unclaimed and unwanted dogs. 

Just recently, the Department of Agriculture enacted an Administrative Order which allows for the inhumane “tambucho-gassing method” of dogs (and even cats). 

The procedure starts with seven to ten dogs manhandled and stuffed in a metal box that they seal. The dogs as one can imagine howl and wail in panic and fear, scratching the walls of the box, and each other. A hose is connected from a vehicle’s exhaust pipe (tambucho) to the metal box. The vehicle revs its engine continuously for 10 to 15 minutes, emitting poisonous fumes, sending the dogs to a maddening frenzy, whimpering and howling, feeling every bit of pain possible. 

Then… silence. Death.

A monthly average of 200 unclaimed stray dogs are put to death in city pounds across the Philippines. Multiply that average by the number of Philippine cities of 138, and you would have 27,600 that need to be euthanized every month. 

The tambucho killing method is currently being done on a weekly basis in some provinces with the use of improvised gas chambers. Some of these allow the gas to leak, making it a longer, more painful torture. Sometimes, the dogs are in the metal box, crying for help for an hour. 

It’s upsetting how the Committee on Animal Welfare (CAW) allowed for the inclusion of “tambucho killing” in the Administrative Order (AO) on Euthanasia of Animals which was approved by the Department of Agriculture last June. 

The AO states that this is an accepted and legal method of euthanasia. 

Organizations like Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) and The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), among others, have been vehemently objecting to the inclusion of gassing throughout the deliberations of the CAW up to the public hearing in May 2009. They continue to fight and are urging the public to join them. 

Euthanasia means “good death.” Where is the good in this? Is it good because it costs less and it augurs well for the city or municipality”s budget? 

The main rationale for the government would condone this cruel way of putting down animals is economic reasons. 

They gauge that it would only take P5 to put down a dog by way of tambucho gassing. As opposed to injecting sodium pentobarbital (or Euthal) by well-trained and caring personnel which is the preferred method for providing the most humane death for dogs and cats. They just get numb and go to sleep according to veterinarians. The injection of barbiturates is also included in the said AO on Euthanasia of Animals, but because it costs about P150 (before wholesale, before bargains, before tax exemptions, before government support) per dog, they would rather employ the cheaper option. 

Where is the good in this? 

What’s needed is for Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala to retract the approval of the AO on Euthanasia of Animals which includes tambucho gassing as a legal method of killing animals. 

Other countries have similar but a lot more sophisticated means of putting down animals. In Japan and the US, for example, according to Luis Benaflor of the AKF, they have a chamber that even looks like an operating room for humans, where they use carbon monoxide (CO) in cylinders which is odorless, tasteless and colorless, although their method already draws a lot of controversy. But because CO is not available in the Philippines, we resort to the more barbaric, painful, cruel version. 

More than that, this method adds to the woes of our environment. Imagine the greenhouse gas emissions of these vehicles that will be revved for at least 10 minutes per murder session, multiply that by the number of times they have to perform it in a week, times the number of dog pounds across the country. 

Has anyone really considered the carbon footprint this will leave behind? 

“If we need to put a dog to death because he cannot be cared for, the least we can do is send him off as painlessly and as humanely as possible,” said Anna Cabrera, PAWS program director. 

“Death by tambucho is not a humane death and should not be included among the legal euthanasia methods in an Administrative Order under The Animal Welfare Act or Republic Act 8485 — a law which was created to protect animals from suffering and cruelty just because it’s a more economical choice,” added Nancy Cu-Unjieng of CARA. 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Calling on President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. This is no “wang-wang” or “tong” but it surely does have a greater effect on the moral fiber of our nation.