Neal Cruz Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 21:42:00 04/17/2011

TODAY BEING Holy Monday, the second day of Holy Week, it is timely, while meditating on the sufferings of Christ to save mankind, to think about what cruelties some of the humans he saved are inflicting on man’s best friend: dogs. 

Congress passed, years ago, a law to prevent cruelty to animals: the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). It punishes cruelty to animals and bans the holding of dog fights and horse fights.

To implement the provisions of the law, the Committee on Animal Welfare (CAW) was created. Its members are government functionaries having to do with animals, heads of associations of veterinarians and representatives of animal welfare groups such as Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Animal Kingdom Foundation, Cara Welfare Philippines and Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA). 

Head of the committee is Dr. Angel Mateo of the Animal Welfare Division of the Bureau of Animal Industry.

On Aug. 24, 2010, a meeting was called by CAW specifically to vote on the deletion or non-deletion of the use of vehicle exhaust fumes, called tambucho-killing (named after the tailpipes of vehicles—tambucho) as a method of euthanasia for unwanted stray dogs. 

There was a quorum and a majority voted for the deletion of tambucho-killing as a method of killing dogs. Recommended method was injecting a barbiturate called Euthal to the dog. It puts the dog to sleep and is painless.

On the other hand, tambucho-killing is a very cruel way of killing dogs. It consists of putting the condemned dogs in a small airtight metal box and inserting the tailpipe of a vehicle through a small hole. The vehicle is then started and the exhaust fumes fill up the box.

What happens next is pure horror out of hell. The dogs begin to suffocate from the smoke and fumes; they panic, they retch and vomit, they howl and bark, they frantically scratch at the sides of the metal box. They twist and suffer spasms. This extreme torture lasts for at least 10 minutes. 

For God’s creatures suffering such pain and torture, that’s an eternity. You wouldn’t want your worst enemy to go through it. That is why the majority of CAW members voted to ban it.

But it is strange that CAW members from the government, ironically those tasked to look after the welfare of animals, are not happy with the ban on tambucho-killing. And the Animal Welfare Division of the BAI came out with an erroneous administrative order which it sent to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. 

It said all “inhalants” are banned. This is erroneous. Carbon monoxide is still allowed but not vehicle exhaust fumes, which has plenty of carbon particles and other gases.

Animal Kingdom was assigned to draft the correct Administrative Order deleting tambucho-killing from the accepted methods of euthanasia, but the BAI-AWD never sent it to Secretary Alcala for his signature, prompting animal welfare groups to write directly to Alcala, who forwarded the letter to BAI-AWD’s Mateo.

On April 12, 2011, CAW called for a “Public Consultation on AO on Euthanasia.” None of the animal welfare groups received any notice of this public consultation. 

The representative of the Solicitor General, Edgardo R. Sison, said the other institutional members should be informed when a motion was introduced for a new voting on tambucho-killing. Dr. Ricardo Gicana of the Philippine Society of Animal Science (PSAS) said there should be a re-voting without giving notices to the other institutional members.

Ana Cabrera of PAWS asked why there was a need for a re-voting when there was nothing wrong with the results of the voting the last time—there was a quorum and the majority voted against tambucho-killing. 

The government representatives, however, insisted on a re-voting.

In short, that “public consultation” was railroaded to allow the return of tambucho-killing. And because of the absence of a number of institutional members of CAW, that very cruel method of “euthanizing” dogs was restored.

When Cabrera of PAWS asked what happens to the votes of other institutional members who were against tambucho-killing, Dr. Mateo snapped: “Wala na. Their votes are nullified.” Just like that. In short, that voting was “lutong macaw” and shameful.

Dr. Hercules Baldos of the Philippine Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) warned the other members not to speak to media, waving a copy of my earlier column on tambucho-killing, saying that I was fed the wrong information that fumes from diesel-powered engines would be used instead of from gasoline-powered engines, in tambucho-killing.

That shows the ignorance of some members of CAW. Whether the fumes come from diesel-powered or gasoline-powered engines, it is the same banana, the torture and pain and suffering of the dogs are the same. And it still should be banned even if the fumes will come from a presidential Porsche, although I doubt if P-Noy will allow his chariot to be used to kill any dog.

Those who favored tambucho-killing said that carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas and that this is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Inaccurate. Carbon monoxide in its pure form is indeed odorless and colorless and kills painlessly. But they come in cylinders and is not the same as vehicle exhaust fumes. Although vehicle exhaust also contains carbon monoxide, it also contains many other gases and especially plenty of carbon particles which suffocate the dogs.

The mystery is why some members of an animal welfare committee want to use a very cruel method of euthanasia when there is a barbiturate that puts the dogs to sleep painlessly—Euthal. This is what veterinarians use to euthanize the pets of their private clients. Why use a different method for stray dogs?