From pugs to corgis, persians to exotics, nowadays, having a pet is no longer meant for companionship but rather for attaining a higher status symbol. It is as if pets have been given certain brands that determine whether they are highly desirable or not. As a result, numerous pet hubs across the metro have sprouted up to satisfy the growing demand for animal enthusiasts. For some breeders, it has come to the point of sacrificing ethical treatment towards our four-legged friends. This then begs the question: are we getting pets for the right reasons?
We get in touch with animal rights group Compassion and Responsibility towards Animals (CARA) Welfare Philippines’ Clinic manager, Janice Dimateo, to shed light on the situation of animal adoption in Metro Manila.
Adopt, don’t shop
When imagining a pet you would want to get, you might think of the color of its fur, how big it will be, and how it would behave. These traits might make you think of a specific breed of the cat or dog you want. Now that you have what you want in your head, it’s easy to find a store or a breeder who sells the specific type you want. But if you’re willing to disregard an animal’s breed or appearance, you might be able to find a friend and do a service to the community at the same time when you adopt instead of shop.
There are various reasons why animal rights groups see adoption as a more animal-friendly alternative than buying from a breeder. With so many homeless animals, relying on breeders does nothing to reduce their numbers. Dimateo believes that adopting strays is a better option than paying for an expensive breed, because any animal that is raised properly will grow to be beautiful. “Magiging practical nalang ako. Although kaya kong bumili, why would I buy? Sa ganoong halaga, pwede naman akong pumulot,” she says. With most of her cats being adopted strays, she mentions that her cats grew clean and healthy because of proper care, not because of breed. Adoption isn’t just saving money—it’s giving abandoned animals homes.
Dimateo also warns that the problem with breeders is you that don’t know how ethical their breeding methods are. She says, “Kapag ang breeders kasi, kahit hindi pa matured yung aso or yung cat to breed or mate, they force it para lang maka-produce ng kittens or puppies na pwede nilang ibenta.” For example, cats are already capable of getting pregnant at 4 months. At this stage, Dimateo explains that a cat may not yet be matured enough to breed or mate, despite being physically capable. Regardless of this, a breeder may force cats to mate at 6 months old just to have something to sell. While not all breeders use questionable methods, the money people are willing to pay for purebreds is enough to encourage some to resort to them.
Can I adopt?
Adoption isn’t something to be taken lightly. Before making the decision to adopt, be aware that being a good owner takes more than an interest in cats or dogs. Dimateo describes adopting a pet as a long-term obligation. To future owners, she advises, “Anak talaga ang trato diyan. Kailangan mo siyang alagaan. They have to make sure sa sarili nila na kaya ko to, willing akong gawin to, at willing ako mag-sacrifice.” With this responsibility in tow, aspiring pet owners have to take the time to learn how to take care of a pet and provide its needs on a daily basis.
Animal shelters typically have a screening process to determine if applicants for adoption are fit to take care of a pet. For CARA, the applicant first has to talk about past experiences with pets. “Kung nakapagalaga ka na before, ilang taon mo siyang inalagaan? Ilan yung naalagaan mo? Kung namatay or wala na, bakit siya nawala? Kasi usually yung sinasabi nila, ‘Ay nakawala kasi eh,’ ‘nakawala sa bahay kasi eh.’ Ang tanong doon, bakit siya nakawala? Tinry mo bang hanapin?,” says Dimateo. These questions reveal plenty about how well the applicant had been treating previous pets and possibly how well the applicant may treat a newly adopted pet.
CARA also has to visit an applicant’s house to see the environment the pet will have to live in. Throughout the application process, the applicant is also required to visit the chosen animal at the shelter at least thrice so that the pet will get used to its hopeful owner. All of these serve to make sure that the adopted pet will be left in good hands. It is only when the applicant produces good results from that the pet can finally be adopted.
Approaching a stray
While the idea of picking up strays off the streets may seem simple, according to Dimateo, it’s not as easy as it looks. As a former animal rescuer, Dimateo explains the behavior of both stray cats and dogs on the streets as a glimpse into how the community treats these four legged creatures. “Kung usually makikita niyo yung pusa pag-gabi konting lapit mo palang tatakbo na, ‘yon yung mga nakaranas na ng pananakit.” Putting up a friendly front for distraught strays may not always be the best way to have them come crawling into our arms as their constant exposure to shoo-ing, or worse, physical abuse from the community has already forced our furry friends to typecast humans as evil beings that cannot be trusted.
Dimateo explains that the physical abuse for stray animals, specifically cats, has gotten way out of hand that it has come to a point that even children join in these acts. “…Sa area namin, may mga bata doon talagang kittens binabato, binabalibag or hinahagis and then kukuha ng bato babasagin yung ulo so sila yung parang ano eh, sila yung mga parang barbaric yung tatawagin mong bata pa lang marunong ng manakit.”
It is with human actions that cause our strays to exhibit trust issues and ultimately choose to avoid interaction. However, there are still ways for interested parties to make their presence felt without causing alarm.
The most foolproof approach, as advised by Dimateo, is to bring a peace offering: food. Instantly, the aroma of cat or dog food will entice stray animals to come forward. As a precaution, it is recommended to let the strays finish eating before making physical contact to develop a sense of trust.
Making a diffference
There is more to pets than just glitz and glamour; they are, after all, living beings too. While many of us are guilty of having pets for the sheer enjoyment of having a particular breed, we must never forget to make their needs a priority. For those that can find it in their hearts to give these neglected animals a home, it is never too late to try. Pet adoption may not be for everyone, but for people who are willing to make the sacrifice, the fulfillment of making a difference in the lives of our animal companions is truly like no other. As Dimateo puts it, “Maniniwala ka na ang stray kittens, pangit yan sa umpisa… Pero why do they [grow up] na malalaki, malulusog, gwapo or magaganda, malilinis? Because inalagaan.”