After a spate of animal cruelty, here’s a look at PH laws protecting our furry friends

Just how safe are pets in the Philippines? Know your pet’s rights.

In a span of just a week, two dogs were killed in the most brutal ways possible. On March 9, Erika, an aspin being cared for by an eatery in Malate, was stabbed to death by a foreign national.

Exactly a week later in Camarines Sur, a beloved Golden Retriever was bludgeoned to death by a man who kept on changing his alibi.  

Animal rights: Golden Retriever Killua
The killing of Golden Retriever Killua sparked a nationwaide discussion on animal welfare in the Philippines. Photos posted by Killua’s owner Vina Rachelle on Facebook

Then just last week, two Shih Tzus had their ears cut off by a suspected robber in Legazpi, Albay, while a cat was shot using a bow and arrow in Davao City. 

It makes you wonder how cruel our society has become, especially to animals . 

What if it happens to your pet? What can you do?

Animal welfare laws

The Philippines has animal welfare laws that address issues around animal abuse, cruelty, and neglect. It is important to understand these laws are enacted to ensure humane treatment of animals and promote their welfare.

We have Republic Act 8485 otherwise known as the Animal Welfare Act of 1998. This is the first law in the country that aimed to protect the welfare of animals by prohibiting acts of cruelty towards animals, such as maltreatment, torture, killing, and neglect. 

It also regulates the sale, transport, and handling of animals to ensure their welfare. Violators of this law may face penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Section 7 of the act states that it is the duty of every person to protect the natural habitat of wildlife. The destruction of said habitat shall be considered as a form of cruelty to animals and its preservation is a way of protecting them.

Animal Welfare: humane treatment of animals
The Philippines has animal welfare laws that ensure humane treatment of animals and promote their welfare. Photo from the PAWS website

Presidential Decree No. 1602 or the Anti-Cruelty Law, meanwhile, penalizes acts of cruelty to animals. It includes acts such as beating, torturing, or killing animals, as well as organizing animal fights or using animals for experimentation without proper authority. The use of poison, dangerous drugs, or chemicals to kill or capture animals is also prohibited under this law.

Then there’s Republic Act 10631 or the Philippine Animal Welfare Act of 2013. This is an act amending certain sections of the earlier Republic Act No. 8485 and provides harsher penalties for animal cruelty. 

It includes higher fines and longer prison terms for offenders. The law also includes provisions on responsible pet ownership, such as the requirement for pet owners to have their pets vaccinated, registered, and properly cared for.

There’s also Republic Act 9482 that provides for the control, prevention of the spread, and eventual eradication of human and animal rabies.

This act called for the establishment of a National Rabies Prevention and Control Program. Its functions include mass vaccination of dogs; establishment of a central database system for registered and vaccinated dogs; impounding; field control and disposition of unregistered and unvaccinated dogs; promoting information and education campaigns on the prevention and control of rabies. 

More than the control of rabies, the act further provides for the following matters: responsibilities of pet owners, government agencies, and local government units; dog population control; and corresponding penalties for violations.

Updating the existing Animal Welfare Act

In response to the recent incidents of animal cruelty, Senator Grace Poe urged her colleagues on Tuesday, March 26, to immediately act on a proposed measure that seeks to revise the Animal Welfare Act.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2458 aims to strengthen animal welfare standards, policies, rules and regulations, implementation and enforcement, and impose tougher penalties on violators. It is currently pending in the Senate committee on agriculture.

Under SB 2458, an Animal Welfare Bureau with city, municipal, provincial and regional offices will be created and placed under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

A person found subjecting any animal to cruelty, maltreatment or any of the prohibited acts under the measure faces a penalty of imprisonment from one year and six months to three years, and a fine of not less than P30,000 but not over P100,000.

Abandoning animals, operating an animal facility without permits and using animals for shows, research or scientific purposes without the required permits will also be penalized.

Those who engage in dog meat trading face a penalty of not less than P5,000 per dog and imprisonment of one to four years or both.

Reporting animal cruelty 

In the unfortunate instance wherein you witnessed animal cruelty, or if your pet itself is a victim, know that you can take action and report it to the appropriate authorities. 

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society or PAWS suggests trying the “friendly approach” first and educating the pet owner on responsible pet ownership. If that doesn’t work then the website Attorneys of the Philippines has the following suggestions.

First is to gather information. Before making a report, gather as much relevant information as possible such as the location of the incident, date and time, description of the situation, and any available evidence such as photographs or videos.

You should then identify the appropriate authority to whom you should lodge your complaint. According to the website, depending on the nature of the incident, there are different authorities to contact. For cases involving companion animals or domesticated animals, you can report to the local police station or barangay. If the abuse involves wildlife or protected species, you can reach out to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) or the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

Animal Welfare: Erika Malate aspin
Erika was the beloved Malate aspin who was stabbed to death by a Korean national who mistook her for a different dog. Photo by Karen de Guzman of ABS-CBN News.

You can also contact PAWS for help, which has a 95 to 98 percent conviction rate in the cases they have handled. You can click on this link if you wish to request legal assistance. 

Next is to provide a detailed report. Include all gathered information and evidence. Keep in mind that the more specific and accurate the report, the better the chances of appropriate action being taken.

If you’re concerned about your identity being revealed, you can request anonymity or ask to be treated as a confidential informant. You may, however, provide your contact information which can be helpful if further details are needed during the investigation.

Reporting cases of animal cruelty or abuse is important but as important is prioritizing your safety. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation or fear retaliation from the alleged abuser/s, consider contacting local authorities or animal welfare organizations for assistance.

After making a report, you must follow up with the relevant authority to ensure that appropriate action is being taken. Feel free to ask them for updates on the investigation and any measures being taken to address the situation.

PAWS reminds the public that it cannot act on social media posts alone. “Animal cruelty is a crime and it needs to be reported to the proper authorities, not on social media,” it emphasized on its website.

It further stated that if you witnessed any form of animal cruelty, it is your responsibility to report it to the police or the barangay and execute an affidavit. Otherwise, no legal action can be made. If you are willing to press charges, then PAWS will be able to assist.

Associate Editor

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