by John Sylvester Custodio and John Samuel Yap
The Los Baños Advocates of Animal Welfare (LB-AAW), after successfully launching a social media campaign last January 14 to prevent the local government from euthanizing the 58 stray dogs, plans on establishing its own pound to further improve both human and animal welfare in the community.
The #SaveThe58 campaign went viral on social media as local government informed LB-AAW that they will be finally putting the stray dogs to sleep due to the lack of budget for the food supply. This prompted the said NGO to use the social media platform in airing this problem to the public as they have been fighting for and protecting the rights of these animals for almost two years, while looking for willing adopters.
Municipal Ordinance No. 2015-1455 states that any captured stray dog held beyond the 4-day holding period in the pound may either be euthanized or put up for adoption. Although the said ordinance legalizes euthanasia, the advocate group insisted that the LGU’s operations have been illegal since they have neither a municipal veterinarian nor a well-managed dog pound. According to the Bureau of Animal Industry, no Los Baños-based pound has been registered as of July 2017.
LB-AAW, a volunteer-based and donation-driven organization, has been at the forefront of helping the municipality through sending volunteers daily at the pound located at the Materials Recovery Facility, more locally known as the dump site, along Jamboree Road in Brgy. Timugan.
People from as near as Calauan and Calamba to as far as the Davao region has shown their support and willingness to adopt a dog into their home, bringing the initial 58 dog count down to 22 in a span of eight days since the online campaign started. Through a rigorous adoption process and terms of agreement, LB-AAW Adoption Committee head Chiara Manuel is able to ensure a safe and healthy environment for the adopted dogs while upholding responsible pet ownership in the community.
Even as the #SaveThe58 campaign is still ongoing, LB-AAW volunteer Chiara Manuel shared that LB-AAW has plans to relocate the dog pound — one that is managed solely by the organization. She elaborated that, through this effort, they will be able to provide a better environment for the animals in the pound, considering that LB-AAW has been mostly in charge of the management and operations of the pound, especially in ensuring the steady food supply, as well as in securing support for health care services and medicine.
Manuel also explained that the plan for a dog pound is not the sole solution. She identified irresponsible pet ownership as the root cause that should be addressed in order to remedy the problem of stray dogs in Los Baños.
This is why the LB-AAW employs a stringent screening process for their adoption. The first step in ensuring responsible pet ownership on the part of the adopters. As for the rejected applicants, she says “ine-educate din namin ‘yong mga hindi qualified to adopt [about responsible pet ownership], para mapag-isipan nila kung saan kaya sila pwedeng mag-improve so one day, capable na sila of taking care of a pet.”
Among the efforts of LB-AAW on spreading the awareness and educating the Los Baños community on responsible pet ownership are posting of publicity materials, requesting volunteers to visit the pound for full immersion, and establishing partnerships with other organizations.
LB-AAW was founded when the local government started their pound operations in 2015. Jean Capistrano, founder of the advocate group, partnered with Aisa Festejo in providing and feeding food for the captured animals. They were joined by other animal advocates aiming to help and educate the Los Baños community on responsible pet ownership. Part of their mission as well is to promote animal welfare and save lives of neglected and “maltreated companion animals in distress.” The organization had been officially recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on February 6, 2016.
As of this press time, the publication is yet to hear the side of the Municipal Agriculturist Office through Cheryll Gonzalez, the officer-in-charge. However, in her recent public pronouncements in local news television, Gonzales said that euthanasia is their last resort on the said issue. She further elaborated that they are doing their best not only for the welfare of the animals, but for humans as well.