By Tessa Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 03:54:00 10/05/2009
Filed Under: Good news, Animals, Ondoy, Food, Disasters (general), Relief & Aid Organisations

MANILA, Philippines—They set out to rescue endangered pets and livestock from the flood—while also helping humans along the way.

For five days now, an international team of animal welfare and animal rights advocates has been braving the floods in neighborhoods devastated by Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana), asking around for abandoned animals and keeping an ear out for a puppy’s whimper, a cat’s scratching, or a pig’s squeal.

Assisted by the Philippine Army, the international team peered into dark living rooms, knocked on shuttered windows. Members of the team made chirping sounds, dog- and cat-calls—or anything that could draw a response from trapped creatures.

The lucky animals are now in the care of the Philippine Animal Rehabilitation Center (PARC) in Loyola Heights subdivision, Quezon City, where they await either a reunion with their owners or re-adoption.

Right to be rescued
“Humans should be rescued first, but the animals have a right to be rescued as well,” said one of the leaders of the team, veterinarian Nielsen Donato.

The ARP only started to mobilize four days after Ondoy had left the country so as not to interfere with human rescue operations that were launched immediately after the storm, said Donato, a cofounder of the Philippine Association of Wildlife Veterinarians Inc. and president of the Feathered Friends Foundation (FFF).As of Sunday, ARP members had penetrated flooded areas in Laguna, Bulacan and Tarlac, and the cities of Marikina, Pasig and Taguig. They had also distributed relief goods to some 220 families.

Since most of the pet owners were nowhere to be found, the team members simply gave the animals new names when these were rescued.

Precious finds
Among their precious finds was “Twiggy,” a spotted mongrel, who was stranded for six days atop a table in a barangay outpost. Nearing death at the time she was rescued, Twiggy was now at the PARC recovering from severe dehydration.
Also saved was “Julia,” a light-brown dog small enough to fit in a handbag. She was spotted standing on a rock, shivering and starving.

“Stanley,” a medium-sized mongrel, and “Fiddler,” a German Shepherd, were both rescued from the ill-fated Provident Villages in Marikina City. Both were also treated for severe dehydration.

Apparently overjoyed by the sight of a human, “Lyndon,” a brown mongrel stranded on a rooftop, also at Provident, wagged his tail vigorously when found and jumped onto the outstretched arms of a rescuer.

Two days ago, the team found six pigs that were still in their pens on Acacia Street, Pasig City. Unable to escape and visibly hungry, the pigs were wailing and had begun eating anything that floated by, including garbage.

Too heavy to be moved to safe ground, the team decided to feed them while waiting for the owner to return.
But for many other animals, the effort came too late. Bloated carcasses of pets, some still on leashes or in cages, greeted the team in Marikina, for example.

World Animal Day
“I never imagined this was how we would observe World Animal Day (Oct. 4),” said Anna Hashim-Cabrera, program director for the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), one of the local organizations comprising the ARP.

“We’ve been receiving over a hundred e-mails asking us to attend to trapped animals. A lot of people are concerned now. There’s a bigger clamor for animal rescues,” Cabrera said.

Other Filipino groups on the ARP team include Animal Kingdom Foundation, Animal Welfare Coalition, Compassion and Responsibility for Animals, and the FFF.

International groups also on board are the Humane Society International, World Society for the Protection of Animals, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Each organization was given different assignments depending on its specialization. The ARP gathered experts in animal rescue, shelter care, veterinary medicine, etc.

Urgent case
An urgent case involving both animal and human marked Day 5 of the ARP’s mission Sunday.

On a rubber boat, as though in a scene straight from some jungle adventure, Donato, along with paramedic Brenda Stanton and emergency responder Mike Booth (both of IFAW), attended to a snake bite victim.

Only this time it was in Barangay San Andres in suburban Cainta, Rizal, where floods unleashed by Ondoy nine days ago remained chest-deep.

The victim, a resident named Ariel Odea, was bitten by a reticulated python that sought shelter in his flooded house. Captured alive, the snake was turned over to Donato, who planned to release it far from human habitation.