On February 11, a help desk announcement from the University Health Office was sent to the community regarding cat-related injuries on campus. It was reported that there have been 13 cat-related injuries for the month of January. The announcement also advised the Lasallian community to be wary and careful in dealing with the cats on campus.
A number of cats have made different areas of the campus their home. So far, 22 cats in the University have been named and identified.
Mary Laureen Velasco, professor from the Philosophy Department and a founding member of Professors for the Upliftment of Society’s Animals (PUSA), has identified Archer, also the mascot of the organization, as the main perpetrator of the reported attacks. “He is too friendly,” she says, describing Archer, also known as ‘the security cat.’ “He will approach you, but if you don’t have food, he will scratch,” Velasco cautions.
Velasco shares that the organization is in the process of creating an animal awareness campaign to advise students against petting the cats since they are still going by instinct—some may be affectionate, while some may be aloof. She further explains that the cats are homeless, do not usually come from loving homes, and may be suffering from trauma. As a cat-owner herself, Velasco also notes that it is in the cats’ nature to scratch, regardless of whether or not they are stray cats.
The humble beginnings of PUSA
PUSA is a new organization that has been involved with looking after the cats on campus. Its core members include five professors from the College of Liberal Arts, namely, Velasco and Dr. Jeane Peracullo from the Philosophy Department, Dr. Maria Guadalupe Salanga and Dr. Laurene Chua-Garcia from the Psychology Department, and Dr. Elaine Tolentino from the International Studies Department. The organization has since expanded to include other cat rescuers and animal lovers interested in the advocacy. The acronym PUSA was coined by Cesar Unson from the Philosophy Department, also a supporter of the organization.
The organization is responsible for identifying and naming the 22 Lasallian felines. PUSA also holds a regular cat feeding program and has conducted three neuter spay events (dubbed as TNR, or Trap-Neuter-Release) as of press time.
“We started in November and the last [event was held] in January 28,” shares Velasco. “We’ll have more, because we have identified about 11 more cats that need to be sterilized,” she adds, noting that so far 18 cats have already been neutered.
Most of the activities have been funded by the five core members of PUSA. The TNR activities beginning November 2015 were also funded by the Philosophy Department, Dr. Chua-Garcia, and Dr. Trinidad Osteria, a retired professor from the Behavioral Sciences Department.
Recently, however, PUSA has been receiving donations from other concerned professors. As news spread about PUSA, more professors have been coming forward to help with their efforts to take care of the cats. Velasco identifies them as “PUSApporters.” Professors who have donated cat food for the feeding programs include Dr. Benjamin San Jose and Dr. Renato De Castro, apart from Dr. Osteria and the core members of the organization.
Other PUSApporters include several members from the Philosophy Department (Dr. Beverly Sarza, Sally Domingo, Dr. Hazel Biana, Dr. Marjo Esteves, Dr. Leni Garcia, Cadz Malbarosa, Dr. Robert James Boyles, Dr. Dennis Apolega, Victor Gojocco, Natty Manauat, Dante Leoncini, Ignacio Ver, Raymund Lualhati), the International Studies Department (George Marasigan), Commercial Law Department (Atty. Rene Betita), Psychology Department (Homer Yabut), and the Literature Department (Dr. Jeremy Chavez). The organization has also expanded to include some graduate students.
Other than programs catered towards cats, PUSA is also preparing an awareness campaign, which the organization plans to launch during the Lasallian Vision-Mission Week. Along with introducing the 22 cats to the community, PUSA also hopes to open membership to the entire Lasallian community during the event.
Involvement of other offices
In collaboration with Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission Br. Michael Broughton FSC, PUSA is working towards being recognized as an official organization in the University. They have been documenting their efforts and have created an extensive profile of the 22 cats on campus to present before the University administration.
PUSA has also been coordinating with the Physical Facilities Office (PFO) and Building and Maintenance Office (BMO). PFO has been giving anti-rabies shots to the cats. Similarly, security guards and janitors have been helping PUSA rescue and feed the cats, especially when professors are not present during weekends and holidays.
PFO was also involved in the neuter spay events held by PUSA, in coordination with Care and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) Philippines.
Not all members of the Lasallian community have been as kind towards the cats on campus. Velasco shares that a few years ago, the cats would allegedly be put in a bag and disposed of. She also recounts catching students goading the cats. She recalls finding Willie, a 5-month old kitten who was named so because he grew up near the William Hall, with his whiskers cut off a couple of weeks ago.
Velasco also shares her understanding that not all members of the Lasallian community are concerned with the wellbeing of cats. PUSA has also received criticism for taking care of the animals instead of dealing with other social issues, such as the street children found around the vicinity of the University. “That reaction is actually normal and common,” explains Velasco. “From a holistic perspective, I have nothing against the people who help the street children,” she shares, adding that other advocacies of people include helping senior citizens, promoting education, and saving the environment.
“That is the way of the world because no single person can embrace all advocacies. There is no competition. [One does] not have to prefer [our advocacy] over the other,” Velasco reasons.
PUSA hopes that a provision against animal cruelty will be included in the next revision of the student handbook, especially since actions of animal cruelty are against the law as indicated by Republic Act 8485 or the Animal Welfare Law.