On the evening of March 30, 2012, The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) received an urgent call from Criminal Investigation & Detection Group (CIDG). Yet another dog-fighting syndicate had been busted in Laguna with close to 300 pit bulls. 

The CIDG requested PAWS’s assistance in the immediate care of the dogs and in the documentation of their condition. They also asked if PAWS would take in the dogs, or oversee their disposal because they would be pulling out by April 7, thus, making the area unsecure.

PAWS immediately called on IRO and CARA (the two groups that they worked with after a dog fight raid last December) to quickly establish a plan of action for the sustainable and long-term care and maintenance of the pit bulls.

Upon arriving at the site early the next morning, PAWS officers very quickly realized the staggering amount of work ahead. There were 266 dogs chained to the ground, near drums scattered in the open field; metal cans that could be barely called a shelter from the heat and rain. 

Many of the dogs were severely injured, extremely dehydrated, and were visibly suffering so it was medically and humanely necessary to put these critically-ill and suffering dogs to sleep.

An initial 17 dogs were put down on Saturday (March 31) while 1 was found dead beside a drum. 

PAWS officers knew first-hand that the first  two months after the bust was when the dogs were at their most critical stage of physical desperation. From its experience with the 73 pit bulls rescued in Cavite last December that were brought to the PAWS shelter, the organization and its committed volunteers had to close down the facility for almost a month as they worked round-the-clock to nurse the dogs back to health. PAWS proudly salutes its volunteers & its vets who went above and beyond the call of duty for these animals. If our volunteers had not sacrificed family, school, and social life to be at the shelter day and night for four weeks, including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the Cavite pit bulls would not have survived and would not have been fit to be relocated to Cebu. 

PAWS acknowledged that it could not accommodate the remaining 248 rescued pit bulls in Laguna as they are already caring for more than 300 animals at their shelter. On the other hand, PAWS also knew the risks of keeping the dogs at the current site. Aside from prolonged suffering caused by starvation, dehydration and infection from injuries, there were security risks of the dogs being abducted and recycled into the fighting ring, used for indiscriminate breeding, or worse. A reliiable source already confirmed that 80-100 of the Laguna pit bulls are actually the same pit bulls from the Cavite operation.

As the April 7 deadline approached, PAWS was faced with few options. With all the consulted animal welfare groups having no definite plans on how to safely shelter the dogs (aside from a much-appreciated offer to transfer about 50 dogs to a private site in Metro Manila), PAWS had to take the humane course of action to alleviate the suffering of the remaining 198 animals. They will have to be put to sleep.

But this was also an action that needed time to be implemented properly. Putting down this many dogs painlessly takes time and care. It was with this in mind, and with the intention of saving the dogs from further cruelty and suffering that PAWS, with prior knowledge and agreement of other animal welfare organizations, made the decision put the dogs to sleep in batches.

So on April 3, 16 more dogs were put to sleep – dogs who were suffering bad injuries or with failing health.

On April 4, IRO and CARA stepped up to the challenge of keeping the Laguna pit bulls alive at all costs.

On April 7, PAWS formally turned over the responsibility for the dogs to these 2 NGOs. In its Facebook announcement, PAWS asked individuals wanting to contribute to the rehabilitation of the pitbulls to give their donations to CARA and IRO.

Currently, PAWS is cooperating with CIDG and the Prosecutor’s Office in order to ensure that the Korean dog fight syndicate is brought to justice.

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PAWS takes this opportunity to clarify the animal welfare principles that guide the organization. 

ON ADOPTING OUT PIT BULLS RESCUED FROM DOG FIGHTS

People have been asking why PAWS would rather euthanize the Laguna pitbulls than adopt them out or foster them out.
Firstly, adoption is one of PAWS’ strongest programs. We adopt our animals out only when the following requirements have been met:  

  • the animal has been physically rehabilitated   
  • the animal has been behaviorally rehabilitated so that they don’t pose a threat to humans, especially children, and to other animals around them  
  • the animal has been given rabies and 5-in-1 vaccinations   
  • animals are neutered or spayed before they are adopted out.  
  • the adoption applicant has been interviewed and has had an opportunity to meet with and interact with the animal for at least three times   
  • background checks and ocular inspections are done to ensure that animals are not handed out to people who may put them in dangerous circumstances.

In the case of the Laguna pit bulls, there is a real danger that these poor dogs may end up with possible backyard breeders or individuals who may recycle them back to the fight ring. Reliable sources already revealed that the Korean dog fight operators paid people to pose as adopters to retrieve confiscated dogs. It was confirmed that 80-100 of the Laguna pit bulls are actually the same pit bulls from the Cavite operation.

All the aforementioned requirements take time before they can be accomplished – taking anywhere from just a few months to years. 

ON REHABILITATION AND RESOURCES

In PAWS’ experience with the Cavite pit bulls’ physical rehabilitation, the Laguna pit bulls needed emergency treatment (rehydration & injectable vitamins) upon admission which costs P300 per dog. They also needed to undergo  a series of blood tests, heartworm screening and tests which costs a minimum of P1,100.  For these alone, the expense would amount to P1,400 per dog and for the 224 pitbulls, this would add up to P313,600. 

The dogs would also need vaccines, antibiotics, multivitamins and liver supplements which would cost up to 1,975.50 per dog. For the 224 dogs, the amount would total P442,512.00.   So the initial treatment and physical rehabilitation of the rescued pit bulls would cost around P756,112.00.

With regards to food, each dog consumes a kilo of dog food every day so food expense would cost around P16,000 – P27,000 a day for 224 dogs (computation based on  cost of cheapest to moderately-priced dog food available in the market). 

These figures do not include the cost of maintaining the shelter, including the cost of land, the cages, the clinic, the utility bills, vet fees, utilities, the salaries of caretakers and rehabilitators/trainers and daily incidentals. 

The continuing cost of rehabilitating the pit bulls will be extensive. With the possibility of more raids in the future, this amount will sky rocket.

PAWS ON DIFFERENT ADVOCACIES AND APPROACHES

The field of animal welfare is large in scope. Thus, to be effective, each organization must choose the aspects of animal welfare that it will prioritize and devote its resources to. PAWS acknowledges that every animal welfare organization will have its own mission.  We respect the differences in each organization’s missions as they all serve to strengthen the overall cause of animal welfare.

PAWS believes it can best make a difference for animals by focusing on humane education, lobbying for both animal welfare laws and against cruel forms of entertainment, taking up legal fights in court, spay-neuter and anti-rabies campaigns and animal rescues from disaster and crisis situations. Currently, PAWS is lobbying for House Bill 5849 to amend the Animal Welfare Act so that stiffer penalties and longer prison terms can be imposed on animal offenders. PAWS volunteers and officers attend court hearings of numerous criminal cases filed against those who have been cruel to animals.

In this matter of the pit bulls, IRO and CARA have taken head-on the challenge of being breed-specific rescue organizations. 

They have made it their mission to give rescued pit bulls a second chance. This is a worthy undertaking. In fact, we wish other groups would take up the challenge facing other animals. 

PAWS invites the public to consider, alongside the 224 pitbulls of Laguna, the plight of the neglected, abandoned stray dogs already in the streets and in pounds. An average of 200 dogs at a minimum are faced with being euthanized in city and provincial pounds every month.  Some of these dogs don’t even need expensive medical treatment and intensive behavioral rehabilitation to be adopted out to loving homes. 

PAWS urges the public to spay and neuter their pets, not to buy from breeders and petshops, and instead show concern and exert more effort to giving pound animals the much needed help because they, too, deserve a second chance at a better life.

PAWS ON ANIMAL WELFARE AND EUTHANASIA

The role of euthanasia (commonly called “mercy killing”, “putting down” or “putting to sleep”) in animal welfare is both widely accepted and contested.  For example, the sad reality is that unwanted animals in pounds in the Philippines and throughout the world regularly end up having to be terminated. Some of them are terminated kindly and compassionately-thus, euthanized – while some are terminated violently and cruelly as some cities and provinces in the Philippines still do – by tambucho-killing (killing via vehicle exhaust fumes).

Each person or group’s position on euthanasia can be arrived at only after long and thoughtful consideration of all facts.  To clarify every angle of this serious topic, much less to convince anyone to take a side, is beyond the ability of a few words and is not the intent of this public statement.

That said, PAWS stands firm on its belief that giving animals a humane death is still part of animal welfare. PAWS views euthanasia as a service to animals who, in certain circumstances, face a life of such poor quality that it can be considered worse than death.  

The organization believes that an animal’s welfare is not simply the prevention of death at any cost, instead it is the prevention of suffering and cruelty. 

Further, though PAWS accepts euthanasia as a possibility, in each case, the decision to put down any animal in its custody is never reached easily or lightly, and is never a first option.  It is always a reluctant and difficult decision made only after weighing all factors. 

When the questions on providing quality of life and long-term plans for animals cannot be answered, PAWS will not “wash its hands” nor will  it turn away from the duty of giving animals a humane and kind death. 

To be responsible for quality of life means one should be prepared to provide it with certainty for the entire life of the animal. 

Consequently, to take responsibility for giving a humane death to a large number of animals when you have come to the conclusion that you are unable to ensure this quality of life is just as important.