City sidewalks have long been a refuge for strays and abandoned animals alike. Left alone in the cold to fend for their survival, these furry little creatures have had to face harrowing ordeals, come rain or shine. Death is a fate that many have succumbed to—either due to hunger or the injuries and illnesses sustained from living along the dangerous streets of the metro.
As the threat of the pandemic continues to persist, the population of abandoned animals remains on the rise. The added financial stress brought upon by the pandemic has left many pet owners with no other choice but to abandon their companions. These days, a stray’s only chance of reprieve comes in the form of initiatives from determined animal welfare groups, whose volunteers’ kind eyes and warmth represent the salvation they have so longed for.
Caring for pets is a conscious kind of effort that can be compared to parenthood—a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. “Pets, for me, signify kindness and compassion because they rely on us—their humans—for their nourishment, shelter, and healthy wellbeing,” says Greg Salido Quimpo, current president and campaigns manager of Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), an animal welfare organization based in Tarlac City dedicated to providing shelter and nurture for all animals.
The people behind these organizations easily share one advocacy—to imbue society with the values of compassion and respect for all lives. In the Philippines, it is not uncommon to see stray animals in skin and bones, so much so that many have become desensitized and immune to their sad stares and cries for help.
Jill Delos Santos, founder and president of Philippine Animal Rescue Team (PART) and its sister organization, Phoenix Legacy of Compassion, credits her time growing up with a lot of pets as the foundation of her strong compassionate bond for animals.
She has made it her mission to make the world a safer place for animals through PART. “[We should be] taught that every living being in this world is interconnected and they also have the right to be here,” she remarks.
Beyond accepting animals into their sanctuaries, animal welfare groups also take it upon themselves to feed,spay-neuter, and medicate all animals that are in need of care and nurture, including those that live outside of the shelters. This huge undertaking is made possible with the help of individual volunteers. “They clean dog pounds of mud, bathe the dogs, feed them, deliver dog food, donate cash, […] and more noble acts that are inspiring,” Quimpo details.
However, animal shelters have recently found themselves grappling with not only the loss of manpower but donations as well. Animal shelters and welfare organizations like PART and AKF rely heavily on the financial help of donors and volunteers, and without their support, they struggle to sustain operations. PART understands this absence all too well; two of their programs, Meals on Wheels, where they routinely follow a path to feed stray dogs in the area, and Pet in Poverty, which helps pet owners to have the resources to provide for their pets, have been underfunded for months. “All of our animals under our care from the sanctuary to the outside—we have lessened their food intake because that’s the first area where we can cut a lot,” narrates Delos Santos.
PART has also borne witness to the tragedies that befall animals when natural calamities such as typhoons strike the country. Delos Santos recounts, “We’ve always tried to educate people […] We’ve always said that, ‘If it’s not safe for you, then it’s not safe for your animal.’” In response to these events, animal welfare groups would try to raise awareness about these tragedies and educate people on compassion and the value of animal lives. Phoenix, for example, has a program called Community Outreach and Rescue Education (CORE) where they conduct several outreach activities in different communities.
The mission of animal welfare groups like PART and Phoenix will always involve the struggle to defend and advocate for those they’ve sworn to protect. And while many families have pets lovingly treated at home, not all animals are afforded the same treatment. Because of the abundance of strays in some communities and the inability to provide for these animals, some see their presence as a threat to the safety of the community. Some opt to euthanize the strays—something most animal lovers deem as inhumane. “If you do mass anti-rabies shots for animals, mass spay-neuter, mass microchipping, I think those things would help in empowering the community to actually open themselves in knowing the strays that live in their community,” Delos Santos argues.
Delos Santos suggests that “discrimination plays a huge part on how these animals are viewed and how they are treated on a day-to-day basis,” pointing out how most pounds do not host animals with a breed as they get adopted more quickly compared to stray mutts. This kind of preference uncovers how most owners adopt pets with a breed.
Life and soul
For Delos Santos, one does not necessarily need to be an animal lover to provide this care—to be humane toward those that have no home is often the best we can do. After all, they are more than just guards for our homes or for our amusement—they have souls, too. “The unconditional love that a dog gives is humbling—you can never find that anywhere else, and, for that, you owe them the best care you can provide,” Quimpo emphasizes.
Change starts with people’s behavior as empathy can go a long way. Buying or adopting a pet should be met with the utmost understanding of the responsibility of caring for another life. As Delos Santos ultimately says, “We all feel the want to be loved and cared for and not be hurt. They value their lives the same way we value ours.” Like children, being a guardian to a vulnerable living being should not be based on one’s fickle idea of ownership, hoping to find a profitable use for them. Instead, we should create a companionship that can mutually offer unconditional love and support through the tough times ahead.