MenagerieExamining the humanity of animal cafés
Examining the humanity of animal cafés
January 17, 2019
January 17, 2019

With the rise in popularity of animal cafés, anyone who is fond of these lovable creatures now had a go-to place for food and warm hugs. Yet, a now viral post on social media brought a more critical eye toward these animal wonderlands. As Wagging Tails, a pet café, became increasingly notorious among netizens, so did the doubt regarding the superficial safety and care provided in these animal cafés—is it right to monetize these critters and their affection especially when their basic needs aren’t even looked after? The LaSallian interviews a past customer as well as Ms. Laureen Velasco, one of the founders of Professors for the Upliftment of Society’s Animals (PUSA) for their insights on this pressing issue.


Furry fiasco

From the one infamous Twitter thread of Darlene Ballano came more complaints and negative feedback about how the pet café in Maginhawa Street was running its operations. As the Facebook page of the café became flooded with negative ratings, animal lovers unified to seek justice for the maltreated animals. Organizations such as Animal Rescue Family Manila and Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) have begun taking action on resolving the issue as of writing.

There have also been reports of sexual harassment in other establishments as one person reported being catcalled by staff in the café. It became increasingly apparent that the place wasn’t the ideal home for these animals and that Ballano wasn’t the first of its customers to raise complaints regarding the disrespect occurring within the café’s closed doors.



The community bites back

Kim*, a passionate volunteer in both private and public community initiatives who aims for the betterment of the lives of abused, neglected, and homeless animals, was also a customer of Wagging Tails. As an animal lover and enthusiast, he was initially excited to spend time with the dogs of the animal café—only to sniff out the dogs’ fear and trepidation. He can only describe the experience as “sad” and “distressing”. “They all looked terrified but some of them were confused. My suspicion is because they were stressed or something. They’re all well-groomed and friendly, but you can tell that they’re stressed and need to obey,” Kim says. He witnessed the staff dragging the dogs whenever customers wished to take pictures. Appalled by the treatment, Kim immediately called the attention of the staff for manhandling the animals carelessly in order to please the customers.

Kim walked out of the animal café that day with the conviction that he would no longer visit another one in the future. With the rise of online complaints against animal cafés, animal lovers like Kim only feel more enraged at the abuse these animals have to suffer. Kim is sure that these situations happen often and will continue to happen again if no proper action would be taken. When asked whether he still believes there is an ideal animal café, Kim replies that he wants people to “invest more on educating other people on how to help raise funds for homeless, abused, and neglected animals who need proper healthcare” instead of “treating them like human workers inside workspace areas.”


A call to paws

The LaSallian was also able to interview Ms. Laureen Velasco, one of the founders of DLSU-PUSA, an organization dedicated to caring for the campus cats and strays. Initially starting as a small social engagement project, the organization has now amassed a group of dedicated volunteers who care, feed, and look after the campus strays. She acknowledges the existence of cafés put up for a good cause, “I know there are animal lovers and rescuers who put up a café sometimes to sustain their own rescues and advocacy.”

When asked for her insights on the monetization of animals, she states, “If it’ll help the animals, I have nothing against that.” She knows all too well that caring for animals is a costly venture with never-ending expenses. On the other hand, she affirms, “If your main objective is profit and the animals aren’t being handled well, that’s what we, [DLSU-PUSA], are against.” Ms. Velasco firmly believes that establishments, including grooming places and pet cafés, who prioritize profit over the animals’ well-being should be shut down. “The animals are not a means to an end,” she scolds.

So where do you draw the line between advocacy and exploitation? Ms. Velasco provides the simple answer: the passion. When placed beside each other for comparison, the stark difference between organizations like Ms. Velasco’s and establishments like indifferent animal cafés is evident. DLSU-PUSA wouldn’t be the well-oiled team it is today without the effort, love, and care each member of the team has for the animals they advocate—something any animal café should know.

*Names with asterisks are pseudonyms.