Once again, I’m stepping onto rocky ground so therefore I’m being very careful how I tread. I do find myself asking though, should I try to be sensitive when it comes to a topic that goes beyond the sensitivities of Filipino people. I don’t really think I should as what I see here every day regarding the care of animals namely dogs is unforgivable but I will attempt to put some rationale to it.
Before I go on, I need to point out that many people here in the Philippines look after their dogs very well. I doubt if any stats are available so I have to rely on what I see and I do see many who love dogs and other animals and care for them very well. What I also see is possibly far more who don’t and some who don’t even seem to recognize a dog as a living creature that can be made to suffer by irresponsible care or lack of it.
A Dog as a Burglar Alarm
It’s so hard to define where the attitudes towards dogs come from. Some would argue that in a country where some of the people have a standard of life on par with street dogs (askals), that the care of animals is a low priority. Although it’s not always the case, it’s often the poor that give their dogs the hardest life.
If you have money, you probably have a place with a compound and are more able to feed your dog with proper food which dogs are meant to eat. The poor often feed their dogs mostly white rice. I’m guessing they don’t see this as a great hardship as many of the people in their situation often eat mainly white rice too so I think you can imagine how they may regard a complaint. They may reply “so you want the dog to eat better than we do” it’s not hard to see their point even if it is harsh.
To be honest though, that is an extreme as most people with dogs do not live in that situation, it just seems to be a cultural ignorance. If you cannot feed a dog what it’s supposed to eat, then why have a dog at all. I have on very odd occasions seen dogs kept on white rice and chained up even in wealthy people’s compounds so to me the problem seems to be as much cultural as anything. In fact the worst case of abuse that I ever saw was in the compound of a leading political family who were extremely wealthy. The dogs there were free to roam within a compound, but unfortunately being starved.
When I’ve asked questions about why people have dogs that don’t seem to know how to look after them, then that’s when the reasoning gets totally bizarre. The usual thing I’m told is that they are there for security. I simply fail to see how a dog in a cage or chained up can protect anyone. When I’ve said that the reply is usually “oh but they bark and it lets us know someone is out there”. Wouldn’t it be better to have them free and able to protect you? People without compounds are likely to chain a dog outside. As for those with a compound I have to ask if someone intends harm whether it is theft or violence, then why would they care about a chained up or caged dog. I have no idea why many cannot work out that a dog is a living creature and not a burglar alarm.
It’s a little more understandable with those without a compound and would be forgivable if they took their dogs off the chain or out the cage and gave it some exercise. Many don’t and that’s when you realize that far too many people here don’t seem to recognise suffering.
So I have gone on to ask why so many people here give their dogs such a sad life. The reply really makes me sick even though there is some truth in it. I’m usually told by way of an excuse for such behaviour that it’s because they don’t know any better and are not educated about such matters. My answer to that is do people need to be educated to recognise suffering? I find that excuse utterly bizarre, but after a lot of thought I see there point.
The people who treat dogs this way probably saw their own parents chaining a dog up all its life possibly grandparents too. I suppose in some respects this teaches people who it is normal, and is passed down.
You would be stunned at some of the exchanges I have had with people over this issue of mistreatment of dogs. Sometimes much offence is taken because it’s a foreigner who has the nerve and cheek to suggest it’s not right. I’ve been told that “it may not be right to me from my way of looking at it, but to us it is acceptable”. It develops into more about foreign interference than the actual matter in hand. When it goes down that road, you’re wasting your time.
I just become an interfering foreigner and I’m often told as with other matters “I should mind my own business”. The issue becomes perverted from there and it develops into all about their human rights. They seem to feel I should simply allow them the right to cause suffering. At this point you have little choice but to give up. The issue of suffering gets totally lost and it’s about the right to be allowed to give a dog a miserable life and foreigners have no right to interfere.
No Help from Media
So reluctantly taking the point that some make as a poor defence in saying that people are not educated as to how to look after a dog, you ask yourself what are the media doing to help. Sadly, as usual the media do little or nothing that is helpful on any level. Surely the lead has to come from them.
Also celebrities here are taken far too seriously. They are admired and worshipped by many. So you might think that that would be a good starting point to reach people. Sadly most Filipino celebrities are a very weird breed in themselves and mostly only concerned with their own careers and trying to actually do something worthwhile by speaking out is never a part of their selfish career plan.
Sometimes trying to defend animals from miserable lives is attacked as the implication is that animals matter more than humans. To that I can only say that it’s about both. A country that cares about animals would instinctively care about people you would think. The issue goes hand in hand and I cannot accept these weak defences for cruelty whether against man nor beast alike.
I’ve heard it said you can judge a country’s morals based on how it treats its prisoners and animals. Well, the Philippines treat both animals and prisoners awfully perhaps that’s a statement, you decide.
Just once I wish the media would speak out against some very obvious wrongs as they carry a lot of weight and people sit up and pay attention. Not only as regards animal abuse but in all matters, the media does virtually nothing other than focus on making money. Celebrities the same and it’s so frustrating when you think of the good they could do.
Education on how to do right by a dog comes from mostly underfunded dedicated organizations such as The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) Welfare Philippines and Philippines Animal Lovers Society (PALS).
I’m certain that any of the above named groups mentioned have a much better idea of what to do to change the situation and encourage better welfare for animals and as in the focus of this article, dogs.
For what my thoughts are worth, I would love to see the end of seeing dogs in cages at pet shops being sold to just about anyone. I think that a spay and neuter program for dogs that are picked up on the streets would be an excellent idea, but of course as with most things here, money for such a program would almost certainly be the obstacle.
It’s great to see that Paws have a great outreach program where they offer free spaying and neutering which they actually take out into local communities.
Cara offers discounted spay and neuter programs and PALS are focused on education.
In the local pet shop just around the corner to where I am staying, I noticed dozens of baby rabbits in cages for sale. This is Metro Manila and I cannot imagine any of those rabbits will be going to a suitable home. Metro Manila is a place where many don’t have gardens and compounds like we do in our home countries, so I have to ask, why are they on sale? Seems the welfare of dogs is only a part of the equation, there is so far to go.