By LUIS BUENAFLOR JR.
IS Iloilo City not concerned with animal welfare?
Despite all its promotions, pretensions and aspirations to become a world-class metropolis, Iloilo City sadly lacks a basic ingredient to be truly called one — a policy on animal welfare. There is no specific ordinance on animal welfare; the city does not have routine programs on anti-rabies vaccinations or on spay/neuter projects.
The city does not even have a decent dog pound. What it likes to call its dog pound is a dirty corner of a dilapidated warehouse that houses junk and discarded vehicles. The impounded dogs are dumped on rusty and smelly cages.
The city conducts no information dissemination on dog bite prevention and the dangers of rabies; no education program on responsible pet ownership.
During my watch as director of Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), the leading animal-welfare nongovernment organization (NGO) in the country, I approached two councilors to offer assistance and support in crafting and enacting a local ordinance on animal welfare. The first one simply gave me the runaround, while the second one just cracked a joke. They must have thought that dogs can’t vote anyway.
Not one to give up, I went to the Iloilo provincial government, which was then still headed by Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. With the help of Dr. Silvino Teodosios, the provincial veterinarian, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the governor approved a provincial ordinance on animal welfare, which is still being actively implemented and strengthened by incumbent Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr.
As a result, Iloilo province now enjoys the reputation with an ordinance on animal welfare.
The AKF started helping the Provincial Veterinary Office with projects such as seminars on animal welfare, responsible pet ownership, anti-rabies vaccinations, spay/neuter programs, and training local provincial vets on quick spay and neuter methods.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health ranks Iloilo City No. 1 in the number of positive rabies cases in Visayas and in the number of stray dogs per human population.
If Iloilo City wants to be a truly cosmopolitan tourist center of Western Visayas, let it look after animal welfare.
Animal welfare is an international policy that now influences world trade.
Take note that the European Union no longer accepts tuna caught without using humane methods. On the tourism side, tour operators in England and Western Europe will not recommend a customer for travel to countries notorious for ignoring basic animal welfare standards.
Locally, Baguio City has long promoted itself as the tourism center of the north but could never get any major tourist influx from Western Europe because of its negative reputation as a city of cruel people who eat dogs.
Cebu, on the other hand, attracts tourists not just because of its beaches but also because it has good policies and programs on animal welfare. In fact, major international animal welfare NGOs have set up shops in Cebu. Among them are the Humane Society International, the World Society for the Protection of Animals and the Network for Animals.
Despite having been away for more than two decades traveling the world, advocating animal welfare, I am due for retirement from the AKF. But that should even afford me more time as an Ilonggo to bring the battle for animal welfare to the home front.
Finally, let me quote Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”/PN