When in Manila, we want happy endings and if we work for it or if we’re lucky we can make happy endings happen. Sometimes, though, despite all our efforts, we fail. And we can only hope that something good might result from that sad ending, a list of dos and don’ts at least to guide others in the future.
Three weeks ago, I had my own first-hand experience with sad endings—a dog-rescue attempt, which is much harder than just picking up a kitten, I tell you.
It was late at night and I was walking along the street towards home when I noticed a stray dog curled up in a ball in between two parked cars. Little light was available and I could just make out its very sad condition. Most of its fur had fallen out and its entire body was covered in bleeding sores. The mange-ridden dog was also thin and obviously underfed. I fed it Siopao and it gobbled it hungrily—and painfully.
His name is Pacman and I saw him huddled on the street. Look at his bleeding sores. When I fed him his tail wagged. I thought he was a stray but later I found out that a neighbour owned him.
Every few seconds, it would whimper and scratch at its snout. I was alarmed at this as this scratching seemed to make the bleeding around its mouth worse. It made my heart bleed watching it try to eat. Though I normally see many stray dogs (many of which are owned dogs let loose to wander the streets) I find that I cannot ignore this one. This one was different; it was there on that exact spot so that when I walked past I would see it.
In fact, as the following events would bear out, this dog was dying.
It was almost midnight and I was drained from a whole day of work, but I made myself march towards the Barangay office to ask for assistance. Kagawad B seemed startled about my concern; he mentioned “dog pound” twice, and I said, “no, no, the dog will end up dead at the dog pound. I want the dog rescued!”
The day of the rescue I looked for Pacman everywhere. I walked from one street end to another, I looked under cars. I thought he had already died somewhere and I’ll never know what happened to him. I looked up for a moment and asked God to help me find Pacman. When I looked down I saw Pacman slip from inside someone’s open garage and painfully walk away. I quickly followed, grateful for the small miracle.
The Kagawad seemed sympathetic, but couldn’t offer any tangible help. The Barangay vehicle had been out-of-commission for months, he said—no funds to repair it… No funds? O-kaay… Could they arrange for some other transportation, like a jeepney, then? They will try and gave me the Kagawad’s and Chairman’s mobile numbers to mollify me. I told them I would be back in the morning to arrange the dog’s transportation to the vet clinic at the Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) along Recto.
At this time I cursed my lack of a car. Not having a car is a logistics nightmare when it comes to transporting a mange-ridden and bleeding dog to the vet. A taxi would not have agreed to transport it, but I figured I would have bullied or bribed a taxi driver if worst came to worst.
Anyway, I was back the next morning. Kagawad B was not around, and there was still no answer about the transportation. I walked around the neighbourhood, looking for the dog. One of my brothers spotted me and asked me why I was wandering around—a neighbourhood kid was with him.
I explained. The kid exclaimed that he knew that dog; the dog’s name was Pacman. It belonged to a neighbour who decided to let it wander around when it developed rashes all over its body.
Elated and incensed both at having found its owner and finding out his neglect of the dog, I went to his house and confronted him, telling him he can be held legally liable for animal abuse. The neighbour was remorseful—he said he did try to treat the dog with sulphur soap only it did not work. He didn’t bring the dog to the vet because he had no money for expensive medical treatments. I retorted that if he had money for beer and pulutan every night than he has money for a vet.
When CARA picked Pacman up to bring to a vet clinic he howled in fear and pain. He wouldn’t eat the burger I placed beside him. I guess it was a really bad sign but I felt exhilarated as I watched the recue van carry Pacman off, to health and a new life… I thought.
To make the long story short (because there were quite a few things that happened in between), the neighbour relinquished all responsibility over Pacman and the Barangay Kagawad and Chairman did not return my text messages at all. Good thing I had been updating the animal welfare group Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA). Upon learning of the issues they came over to pick up Pacman and brought him to St Gabriel’s Clinic in Mandaluyong.
Normally, animal rescue groups are swamped with calls for assistance and they urge callers to do their part to feed and shelter the animal, then bring it to the vet. In Pacman’s case, CARA had to intervene immediately as the dog was in critical condition.
I wish I have a happy ending to share. Unfortunately, despite all our best efforts, Pacman died at the clinic due to septic shock and blood loss. We were too late to save him.
CARA urged me to document the incident on the Barangay’s blotter and to help them file a case against the irresponsible owner. I did the former and backed out from the latter. I didn’t believe the case would prosper. Neighbors would testify the owner was stupid, lazy and negligent but not deliberately cruel.
So what happens now? Given the unsuccessful outcome of this dog rescue attempt am I discouraged? Definitely not. Did anything positive result from it at all? Yes, definitely.
Let me share at least one happy story. Zorro was rescued by the Philippine Animal Lovers Society (PALS) last Aug 21, 2012. No inch of Zorro’s body was spared from a long time fungal infection. He was scratching everywhere. His whole skin was so dry that skin was just falling down. But look at him now! Photo is from PALS’s Facebook Page.
There were a lot of lessons learned that made me more determined to help push for animal rights and animal welfare advocacy in the Philippines. First-hand, I experienced how draining it was to worry; to face the apathy of neighbours and the lack of helpfulness by one’s own Barangay; to risk incurring the neighbor’s ire by messing into what they consider their own business.
Certainly, there were more dramatic elements to the story than if I had just picked up an injured and abandoned kitten (which I had been doing since I was a child). I now have such awe and appreciation for dog rescue volunteers who do this and more every day for nothing.
I believe that our animal companions are family and must not be left behind. During Habagat, Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Volunteers responded to pet owners requesting emergency evacuation for the pets they’ve left behind in the wake of the Habagat Floods. They are a rare breed of heroes. Photo is from their Facebook Page.
Most generic lists of how to help injured animals cannot truly address specific and unique neighborhood issues. Maybe my own insights and observations could prove useful to you if ever you decide to also help an animal in need in your neighborhood.
5 Top Things to Remember When Trying to Save an Injured Animal In Your Neighborhood
1. Do keep a list of numbers and contact info handy: the vet, the Barangay, and the Police Hotline (Call 117).
This served me well. Two dog rescue organizations responded to my call for help and guided me through my first (very clumsy) attempt to help an injured dog.
2. Do act immediately.
If you wait it might be too late as I found out. It was two days before I got the dog picked up and brought to the vet. By then, Pacman was bleeding heavily and could no longer fight off the infection from his many wounds.
3. Do be prepared with treats.
You need to be able to lure the dog to a safe place. It would be better if you recruit friends and neighbors to assist in the rescue. Also be prepared with a leash and a cage that will contain the dog.
4. Do be aware of proper documentation.
Have printed copies of the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 handy. If people are educated about animal rights and that it is against the law to abuse and abandon them, then there might never be a need to rescue animals at all. Also, make sure you take pictures of the injured animal to use as proof of the neglect or abuse. Pictures will help friends or anyone assisting in the rescue recognize the animal. Document the incident in your Barangay blotter—this can be used later as evidence if legal cases will be pursued against owners of abused animals or on those who deliberately injure or kill an animal.
5. Do keep calm and carry on.
No use antagonizing your Barangay or neighbors. No matter how your blood boils at the abuse, negligence or indifference, you need to aim for diplomacy. After all, you need these people to cooperate. If they get mad, you just add another obstacle to overcome to get the animal to safety and emergency medical care.
When in Manila I hope to never have to rescue an injured or sick animal again, not because I don’t want to but because I wouldn’t need to. Sadly, it might take a while before animal rights and welfare could truly penetrate the consciousness of the majority of Filipinos. Most do not realize: “Cruelty breeds more cruelty.”
Humans who are cruel to animals will sooner than later transfer their cruelty to other humans. Don’t you think?
With a growing number of animal rights warriors, I know more animals will be saved, one rescue at a time. Soon, if we let compassion affect more of our lives, all our animal stories will have happy endings.
Here’s another chance to create a happy story. Rafiq was picked up off Araneta Avenue where she was scavenging along the sidewalk. She has serious injuries in her face from a rate attack and is now confined at the vets for observation. Photo is from CARA’s Facebook Page.
To help Rafiq the puppy, please donate to CARA by clicking this link. Please do not forget to leave a note at the payment gateway for whom this donation is intended!
You may find information on how to contribute to PAWS’s efforts to prevent animal cruelty in the Philippines at their website – http://www.paws.org.ph.
If you want to donate to or adopt from PALS click this link. They are currently at full capacity and cannot rescue unless they get their dogs and cats adopted out.
The Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals operates a low-cost veterinary clinic for both paid and charity cases. I bring my animal family there. To find out more about them, click this link.
To know more about Republic Act No. 8485, known as the Animal Welfare Act of 1998, click here.
To report about animal cruelty, click here.
To read about the Top 5 Ways to Help Animals in the Philippines click here.
Rescuing Pacman: A Dog Rescue Story