By Joe Zaldarriaga

Animal welfare

The recent brutal killing of the golden retriever Killua in Bato, Camarines Sur has sparked public outcry, especially from animal-loving Filipinos, as it serves as a wake-up call on the need to raise greater awareness on animal rights.

The hashtag #JusticeForKillua has made headlines these past few days after the dog was killed by a man who claimed that the animal chased his child. The incident was captured on closed-circuit television and showed the man striking the helpless dog while it was attempting to flee. The dead dog was later found in a sack.

Recent reports that Killua tested positive for rabies also highlight the need for responsible pet ownership.

The senseless killing of Killua has opened discussions to revisit and amend the country’s Animal Welfare Act to further promote the humane and dignified treatment of animals and ensure that stronger safeguards are in place to penalize abusers.

Killua's story is only one of several cases of animal cruelty in the country that sadly reflects the kind of progress we have. These past few days, several stories of animal abuse have made headlines to the disappointment of many.

Just before the killing of Killua, the stabbing of an aspin (short for asong Pinoy or local breed) Erika by a South Korean national also made headlines.

In a country where the majority of households or 64 percent are pet owners, animal welfare is a serious national issue that requires grave attention from policymakers, law enforcers, and advocacy groups.

While some would argue that there are more important issues to address than animal welfare, I believe that our treatment of animals mirrors our soul as a nation. If we cannot protect and promote the welfare of those who cannot speak up for themselves, how can we advocate for true justice and compassion?

A society that is cruel to animals is a broken society bereft of decency and good moral order.

In light of the killing of the pet dog Killua, it is timely for our lawmakers to reopen discussions on amending the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 to ensure that the law is attuned to the current conditions of our society.

It is up to our lawmakers to give the law more muscle by increasing fines and penalties for violators to help deter future offenses and in effect, raise better awareness of animal welfare. This way, abuses, neglect, and abandonment of animals can be met with stricter punishments instead of just a slap on the wrist.

As Senator Grace Poe, who is among those seeking the amendment of the law said: “If we are to create a kinder society where animals and humans can co-exist in harmony, we must raise awareness on the proper, responsible, and humane manner of treating animals.”

While significant progress has been made in promoting and protecting animal welfare, much remains to be done.

Amending the law on animal welfare is one matter, enforcing it is another.

The problem with animal cruelty should be addressed at the grassroots level and requires a multi-sectoral approach to raise awareness of animal rights and promote proper and humane treatment of animals.

It must be emphasized that this humane treatment of animals should not be limited to house pets alone such as dogs and cats but should encompass all forms of animal treatment–protection of endangered species, wildlife conservation, and ethical treatment of livestock among others.

To drive widespread prevention of animal abuse, active collaboration is needed between policymakers, law enforcers, and the private sector, particularly advocacy groups.

For example, our barangay officials can partner with cause-oriented advocacy groups for information campaigns on animal welfare. The private sector on the other hand can fund programs that are geared toward raising greater awareness of animal rights.

Information is power when it comes to any social issue.

It is in this light that I also support the proposal to include animal welfare in the basic education curriculum so that Filipinos at a young age can learn how to treat animals properly as well as how to be responsible pet owners.

As we advocate for greater awareness on this issue, let us be reminded that our treatment of animals reflects our humanity.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.