Precious Lives

A KILLER IS on the loose in Dasmariñas Village. He has murdered 14 since mid-January and is threatening to massacre more. That his victims are cats doesn’t make his crime less heinous.

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The Dasmariñas cat killer’s threat. (photo: Francesca Litton, twitter.com)

Horrible as it is, I don’t expect many Pinoys to raise an eyebrow over this. The disposal of stray (feral) cats by dumping, drowning, kicking, stoning, shooting, stabbing, burning, mauling, strangling, and other cruel methods has long been a national tradition. The Dasmariñas killer even murdered one cat by pouring paint thinner over it, subjecting it to a slow and torturous death. Horrendous, but I wonder how many folks will really care.

My husband and I are not rich but we’ve done what we can for ferals that crossed our path. We have rescued I’d say over 30 cats since 2009, and have adopted several of them. Not all have survived. We currently share our humble home with 12 rescues (7 indoors, 5 in the yard). Love and care have made all the difference for them.

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Our first rescue, Persia, as he came to us in 2009, and six months after, as a member of our family.

Last year during kitten season, a number of kits took shelter with us. One of them was Troy, whom my husband picked up during one of his bike rides. Melonade and Ritzy had been born nearby. The three of them were thin and weak and newly-weaned, but we tried our best to help them survive.

One day, I caught a neighborhood kid trespassing our property. He was a 3-year old ragamuffin let loose by his parents all day on our street while his negligent yaya chatted on her unli data plan. Well, he entered our yard and started throwing and shaking poor Troy like a ragdoll until, horrified, I made him stop.

Naturally, I scolded his yaya for not doing her job and told her to watch him more closely. I then gently spoke with the child and tried to teach him how to handle the kitten. The boy didn’t know any better and thought that Troy was a toy. Despite our little lesson, I caught him doing it two more times with the other kittens and found traces of his visits several times when we were away from home. We reported the incidents to the subdivision security, but to no avail. None of the kittens made it. Despite our best efforts to save them, they all died from the stress of his manhandling (or boyhandling).

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Troy, Melonade, and Ritzy. All died from stress due to a boy’s repeated mauling. (photo: Candy Cruz Datu)

Once, my husband intercepted a woman in our subdivision with a shoebox in her hands. He noticed that the box was wriggling and soon learned there was a kitten inside, about two months old. When he asked where she was headed with it, she candidly admitted she was about to throw it in the trash bin. She didn’t want it; it was making a mess at home. My husband gave her a piece of his mind and took the kitten from her and put it to safety.

Our attempts to protect and shelter the subdivision strays have been misunderstood and rewarded with our neighbors’ ire. Through the years we have seen the mysterious death of several beloved yard cats who were in perfect health. For those of us who invest time and love and financial resources to tide these creatures over from weakness to strength, these losses are extremely painful.

We have even been reported to the homeowner’s association for “our cats” that have made messes (so they said) in their yards and garages.  When the association informed us of the complaint, my husband gave them an education. He replied that, first, these yard cats were not “ours;” second, we were merely obeying the law that mandates us to shelter them and promote their well-being; and third, the subdivision is liable for not doing the same. He then emailed them a copy of the Animal Welfare Act of 1998. Expectedly, the complaint was withdrawn.

The AWA makes the protection of wildlife our joint concern. It aims to change not only the way Filipinos think about animals (they are fellow creatures, not objects or commodities) but significantly, how we interact with them. Section 6 provides:

It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance of shelter, or maltreat any animal or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horsefights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare.

The law also addresses the issue of abandonment in Section 7:

If any person being the owner or having charge or control of any animal shall without reasonable cause or excuse abandon it, whether permanently or not, without providing for the care of that animal, such act shall constitute maltreatment under Section 9.

If the animal is left in circumstances likely to cause the animal any unnecessary suffering, or if this abandonment results in the death of the animal, the person liable shall suffer the maximum penalty.

Abandonment means the relinquishment of all right, title, claim, or possession of the animal with the intention of not reclaiming it or resuming its ownership or possession.

The penalties for violations of the AWA range from imprisonment from one year and six months to three years and payment of a fine of P30,000 to P250,000, depending on the circumstances.

Animal welfare groups have been trying to educate the general public on the aims and stipulations of the AWA, but it is a difficult process. Happily, due to social media, groups advocating the rescue and adoption of strays in general (but especially native cats and dogs lovingly called “puspins” and “aspins”) are growing and gaining ground. The message is starting to get through.

The reason given for the maltreatment of feral animals is usually overpopulation. Because there is a glut, humans think they have a license to kill. There are better ways to deal with the problem.

  • If you have pets, have them neutered (castrated/spayed). A number of clinics and shelters offer the service at a low cost. (See this list for starters.) Some vets also automatically grant a discount to rescuers, so make sure to ask.
  • If you have the resources, consider participating in a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. Here, a feral animal is caught, castrated or spayed, then returned to its habitat. The animals are treated humanely throughout the process.
  • If you have no extra time or resources, you can still help. Support the animal welfare groups spearheading humane initiatives to control overpopulation. Educate yourself on the issue. Help spread the message. Regardless of the limitations, you can always #dosomething.

When God created His world, He entrusted humans with its stewardship for the mutual benefit of all creatures. How we carry out that task is, to me, one of the measures of our humanity. We have not done too well so far. There is still time to make a difference.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 1:31,2:15

 

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