NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
AN online petition over at Change.org has rapidly triggered an outpouring of public support from here and abrod for the sake of the dogs woefully impounded in Boracay, Philippines' internationally acclaimed tourist paradise.
Started a week ago by Ted Teodoro, the petition calls on Boracay Mayor Johnny Yap to stop the cruel treatment of the island's homeless animals, particularly dogs, starting with a recall of his recent policy that disregards animal welfare and rights.
“Using rabies as an excuse, the Mayor and (his) council have unleashed cruel and poorly trained dog catchers upon the stray dogs. Once caught, dogs are confined to the notorious dog pound where they receive no care, water nor food. The dogs experience no form of human kindness,” said Teodoro in his message to online petitioners.
“We obtained firsthand reports corroborating these unacceptable conditions. As the practice goes, the dog catchers intimidate the locals, coercing them to pay higher reclaim fees and thus increasing the dog catchers' income. Some fortunate dogs are nevertheless claimed by their human companions. But, most dogs remain unclaimed because they are homeless or their humans cannot afford the inflated fees,” Teodoro added.
Nearly 7,000 signatures were submitted as of February 25 that show support for Teodoro's petition. Teodoro warned of the bad effects to Boracay's tourism industry and public image when visitors, especially foreigners, learn about the deplorable practices at the island's dog pound.
“Abusing animals will lead to a loss of income and respectability for Boracay. The town will acquire a reputation for hideous animal cruelty and tourism will decline,” he said.
Teodoro also said the animal welfare group Aklan Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in Kalibo has already contacted local travel agencies that serve Boracay to inform them about the situation and explain its probable effect to their business. The group hopes travel tours will support the petition to avoid further damage to Boracay's image.
The snowballing public support as evidenced by the number of those that have digitally signed the petition has so far helped the group to possibly have a meeting with Yap. Teodoro said they will not terminate the online petition even after the target number of signatures are met as the dogs are counting on more people to sign up and demand humane treatment on their behalf.
Teodoro, in his petition, also pointed out that the cruel and inhumane conditions in Boracay's dog pound violate Republic Act (RA) 8485 or “The Animal Welfare Act” and its amendment RA 10631.
“Municipal dog pounds fall under these laws. Republic Act 9482 mandates the role of a Local Government Unit on population control and recognizes the provisions of RA 8485. Therefore, the Mayor is legally required to uphold animal welfare,” he added.
By Alma J. Buelva
METRO MANILA'S first cat cafe is now open! Miao Cat Cafe, owned and managed by sisters Loida Ramos-Benson and Sam Ramos, welcomed cat lovers to its feline-friendly coffee shop on Valentine's Day. Since then, a steady tide of cat fanciers has gone up the steep stairs leading to the doors of the novelty cafe, where cats and coffee are guaranteed to keep everyone warm.
Miao Cat Cafe is located at the second floor of a nondescript building at No. 7 Congressional Ave. in Quezon City near Mindanao Avenue. Parking is not easy and guests are advised to leave their vehicles a short walk from the building. The sooner they can do this, the sooner they can park themselves inside the sisters' cozy shop where cats curiously hang out with guests.
Loida and Sam come from a family of animal lovers. The cats at the cafe are their personal pets and Loida herself has a cattery. At any given time, Miao Cat Cafe visitors can expect to meet and greet more or less a dozen cats that include Munchkins, Persians, British Shorthair, Exotic Shorthairs, Scottish Folds and Puspins. The cats' ages vary from as old as six years to as young as two months.
While the opening of Miao Cat Cafe seems to have taken everyone by surprise, the sisters nursed the idea about three years ago after their visits to some cat cafes abroad.
With their family and friends' wholehearted support, the sisters decided it was time to open their dream cat cafe. After they found a place to rent, construction began at a feverish pace and in two weeks Miao Cat Cafe was up.
“Me and my sister have thought about putting up a cat cafe as early as three years ago. The last two months, I had to convince my husband that this is really what I want to do and when he agreed, it took us two weeks to build the cafe,” Loida told MetroPets.
The fact that they already own a menagerie of healthy and well-behaved cats at home helped speed up the process. The sisters also guiltily admitted that for years they have been “secretly” stashing away cat-themed items which they thought would be good to have in their future cafe.
“All that time we were dreaming of this, Sam and I were already buying fabrics with cat prints,” said Loida as she pointed to the customized seat covers and throw pillows with cat patterns that adorn the cafe.
Cat literature, cat decor, trinkets and even clothes help complete the atmosphere at the cafe. It is still a work in progress, but much thought and care have gone into ensuring that the cats are safe and comfortable. The sisters hired a carpenter who builds cat-friendly furniture and accommodations, including a special wooden bridge that hangs from the ceiling. They have also brought in part of a tree that broke during a recent typhoon to give the cats a tree to climb.
Their choice of location for Miao Cat Cafe factored in not just the volume of human traffic in the area but also the availability of a safe outdoor space. The unit has a balcony with screens to let the air in but not the cats out.
“We like this area because it has an open area at the back where the cats can get some sun, grass and fresh air. We don't want them to be inside an air conditioned room all the time because they might get sick. It's also healthy that they have access to some grass which they sometimes chew on,” said Loida.
The balcony at the back also allows the cats to see or hear some birds as they chill out on their hanging beds, cat towers and open cages. There are also cushioned seats available for guests.
Miao Cat Cafe clients can also enjoy a cat spa in the near future. Loida said it will be a separate area exclusive for guests and their own cats. Cat grooming, playground and treats will be available to visiting cats, but they will not be allowed to mingle with the cafe's resident cats.
CATS + RULES
"Now keep your frocks clean, children! You must walk on your hind legs," so said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit from the beloved Tale of Tom Kitten children's book.
You see, rules are important to keep the cats and the place clean. Miao Cat Cafe has standard rules that apply to all guests. Use of shoes and flash photography are not allowed inside the main area. Cats are not to be lifted or carried and must not be disturbed when they are sleeping.
“I will not hesitate to ask anyone who violates these rules to leave,” said Loida. “We love our cats; they are my babies.”
Guests are provided with slippers to wear inside the dining and play area. There are also lint removers at the door so guests can remove cat fur on their clothes before they leave.
Miao Cat Cafe charges adults P300 inclusive of one pastry and one drink for a two-hour stay. Children's rate is P150 with one drink for two hours. On weekends, the sisters try to serve full meals of rice and pasta. The shop is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. but they also briefly close for some periodic clean-up during store hours.
The owners strongly recommend calling ahead to make a reservation.
As for the cats, the sisters alternately feed them dry cat food and mashed broccoli and squash with chicken. Loida said their veterinarian has been encouraging them to go natural with the cats' diet.
So far, Sam said even families have come to visit them even though they have not advertised Miao Cat Cafe yet.
“The families even said they want to come back soon,” Sam added.
The excitement inside the Miao Cat Cafe is palpable. Loida excitedly shared her plan to find in her next trip to Japan a special kind of marshmallows shaped like a cat that can be used to top a coffee. Sam said they have also received an invitation to be featured in a television show. She also said their cats love the public's attention because while they do pamper them at home, there are a lot of cats sharing their love and attention.
At the corners of the cafe, young patrons slumped on the wooden floor are giggling as cats play with them enthusiastically. One even joked that one of the cats was “voluntarily” going inside her bag. Others were just too busy snapping away photos than sipping coffees.
Loida was watching them pensively. Her face a study of happiness and “jealousy” as complete strangers bond with her cats. “They are still my cats,” she whispered.
Miao Cat Cafe:
#7 Congressional Ave., Q.C.
(02) 274 7937
TWO of the eight South Korean men behind a major dog fighting ring in the Philippines were deported last week, the Wall Street Journal (Asia) reported.
The report, which quoted Rosevida Nabong, an attorney for the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration, also said that four more will be deported back to South Korea in the near future. Also, one of those charged is said to be still fighting deportation while the other one is facing additional criminal charges.
Almost three years ago, authorities raided the Koreans’ compound somewhere in Laguna, 85 kilometers south of Manila. They found around 300 pit bulls chained inside steel oil drums, some in very bad conditions.
The dogs were forced to fight each other, sometimes to death, while filming them online for the consumption of online gamblers in South Korea and in other parts of the world.
Animal welfare group Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) is currently caring for 149 of the rescued pit bulls. Another 11 have been adopted and the others have been euthanized for health or other reasons.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that a South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in an email that South Koreans who have “substantially compromised national dignity” while overseas could have their passports restricted for between one to three years depending on the “gravity of the person’s sentence.”
Dog fighting is illegal in both South Korea and the Philippines.
THERE'S no hiding from our dogs. A new study suggests that our canine buddies can read our emotional state by solely looking at our facial expressions. Whether you are happy or angry, the dog knows. Don't even try to fake it.
National Geographic early this month reported that scientists from the Vienna Messerli Research Institute in Austria have established that dogs are really smart enough to read human faces that are both familiar or new to them. Their research, published in the journal Current Biology on February 12, 2015, offers the first solid evidence that dogs have this acute sense of recognizing emotional cues in another species, specially humans.
"Our study demonstrates that dogs can distinguish angry and happy expressions in humans, they can tell that these two expressions have different meanings, and they can do this not only for people they know well, but even for faces they have never seen before," lead author of the study, Dr. Ludwig Huber, head of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna's Messerli Research Institute in Austria, said in a written statement.
The researchers trained 11 dogs for their study to discriminate between photos of people who look happy or angry. Some dogs were given treats for identifying happy faces, which somehow made them to learn quicker than their counterparts who were not given treats for pinpointing photos with angry faces. The dogs also appeared to know the meaning behind the two expressions: happy is positive, angry is negative, the researchers said.
Sometimes the dogs were shown only half of a photo, but they still managed to distinguish what type of expression it conveys.
The latest study, which was co-authored by Corsin Müller from the same esteemed Vienna institution, complements a 2008 study that suggested dogs can tell by just looking what a person is feeling.
THE bittersweet story of Hachiko, the loyal Akita dog who waited for more than 9 years at a Tokyo train station for his master, just had a “new ending”.
Early this month, the University of Tokyo's agriculture department marked the 80th and 90th death anniversaries of Hachiko and his master, respectively, by erecting a new statue that allowed the two to be together at long last.
The story of Hachiko and his owner, university professor Hidesaburo Ueno who died while giving a class lecture, pinched a lot of hearts as Hachiko never saw his master return from work again. After almost 9 years, Hachiko died waiting until his last breath for him. For his love and devotion, Hachiko was honored with a statue at the Shibuya train station, showing him sad and lonely.
This is why the new statue of him joyfully reunited with his owner is very heartwarming. It offers a kind of closure that Hachiko and everybody who knew about his story wanted so bad.
The university chose to immortalize the many occasions that Hachiko and his master would see each other at the train station every night, instead of the image of the hopeless waiting the dog endured for years. It is somehow a better ending to one of the greatest love stories ever between a man and his dog.
The new bronze statue of Hachiko bursting with happiness upon seeing his owner can be seen inside the campus grounds.
A SIGNIFICANT decrease in demand may cause the once very popular Pembroke Welsh Corgi dog breed to soon become extinct if its popularity doesn't improve.
The British used to love this breed, with no less than Queen Elizabeth keeping a number of the cute, bob-tailed dogs in her court for decades. But even the 88-year-old monarch was reportedly not adding to her pack of Pembroke Corgis anymore as they pose a tripping hazard.
However, the Kennel Club in the UK has recently reported that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is “under threat” of extinction with only less than 300 of them left in the whole kingdom. This is the first time the Corgis have been on the list of vulnerable species in the UK. Experts blame bad breeding programs and the simple fact that not many people go for this type of dog at present.
The group reported that not many are breeding Pembroke Welsh Corgis at the moment which leads to the drop in the dog's population by half from 2006 to present. In 2014, only 274 Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppies were registered, bringing the breed under the 300 threshold needed to stay off the list.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed joins its cousin, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and 28 other breeds in the UK that are dying out.
By Alma J. Buelva
CAT CAFE MANILA, a promising business idea that initially used crowdfunding to create awareness and look for potential investors, has taken the first step to build its physical store.
Construction of the eagerly-anticipated Cat Cafe Manila began early this month in 189 Maginhawa St., UP Village, Quezon City, a crowd-favorite district made popular by an eclectic range of good restaurants and bars.
Cat Cafe Manila founder Anna Calvo and her business partners aim for a soft opening sometime next month, ahead of the target late summer opening of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Full operations of Cat Cafe Manila should start in April.
The Cat Cafe Manila team broke the news in their official Facebook page last February 5 with this post: “Hello cat lovers! For those of you who are wondering, our journey to building our cat cafe has begun. It's a modest place somewhere in Maginhawa QC, but our goal is to make it as homey as possible to both our cats and our feline-loving customers.”
A flood of comments immediately followed from happy and excited well-wishers and future patrons who promise to visit the place as soon as it opens.
“We are finally getting the cat café we have so longed for,” said one person named Chie.
Cat Cafe Manila is partnering with CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animal) Welfare Philippines by bringing in some cats that customers might want to later adopt.
The group's crowdfunding effort set out to raise $10,091 during the last three months to be able to top-up their roughly $15,000 ready capital. They gathered as much as $402 and although it represented only four percent of their target, Calvo's team is determined to bring to fruition Manila's first cat cafe.
"We know that crowdfunding is not really big in the Philippines; instead, we used this campaign to create awareness and look for other potential partners/investors, and we succeeded in this case. We were able to get additional investors and initial followers because of this campaign.," they said.
PERKS & PRIVILEGES
In courting pledges and bids to its crowdfunding activity over at indiegogo.com, Cat Cafe Manila promised a number of special packages for its supporters, from prepaid entrance tickets to exclusive monthly or yearly memberships.
It's a promise they have not forgotten as evidenced by their Facebook message on January 29: “To all our Indiegogo supporters - BIG BIG THANK YOU!!!...Rest assured you will be able to use your pledges and you'll be the first few to experience our cat cafe once we open!”
The packages, however, are still being finalized. But based on their online campaign materials, Cat Cafe Manila had thought of offering VIP memberships inclusive of unlimited visits to the cafe during the time of membership, a personalized ID, and specific amount of cafe food and drinks.
An aptly named “9 Lives Card” was also hatched by the team, which entitles patrons to a 30 percent discount on entrance fees to the cat cafe. The card is transferable and is worth 9 visits, valid for one year.
The Cat Cafe Manila team has also expressed plans to rent out its facility for a limited period for small private parties. Those who wish to have a deeper connection with the cafe's resident cats may also sponsor a cat for a year and receive complimentary visits, annual membership and drinks, among others.
“We have a lot on our plate this month, so please bear with us as we make this cat cafe dream into reality as soon as possible! We'll post updates from time to time, and we'd love for you to join us in this journey! Thank you very much for all the support,” the team said over at Facebook.
*To know more about Cat Cafe Manila's official perks and privileges, please contact email@example.com
By Alma J. Buelva
MANILA's potentially first cat café has received mixed reactions online both from those who support and oppose its concept. But the intrepid man behind it is not about to wave a white flag.
Excitement over Velvet Friends Cat Cafe, a would-be personal venture of Chito Aclon, was doused by strong opposition from a number of local cat rescuers and sympathizers who questioned Aclon's preference for purebred cats and kittens. Their main argument: raising awareness on the plight of native cats (Puspins), many of which are homeless, should be a local cat cafe's ideal focus. They also weighed in heavily on how Aclon should not sell his purebred's kittens for profit. Doing so, they argued, would reduce his cat cafe into a cattery or kitten mill that puts profit before animal welfare.
Literally a “cat fight” broke out between the two camps in defense of felines – puspins and otherwise.
One commenter who used the alias “kurochan” wrote: “Cat cafe is a really nice place to go to. I know because I've been to lots of them in Singapore and Thailand. There is nothing wrong with it. But how Mr. Aclon has described it seems like he's doing it mostly for business. And that's the sore point of this whole thing.”
Others are even more incensed to the point of questioning Aclon's knowledge of cats and his character.
As one “Tim” wrote: “I hope that he hasn't bought the cats yet. I fear for the welfare of the cats under his "care", if all he can think of is putting up a "Cat Starbucks".”
And from a certain “Charlie”: “Shameful. Another ____ out to make a profit on animals. Only in da (the) filipins (Philippines), where its own people spit on their own local breed of cats and dogs starving and dying on the streets and pounds while purebreds are worshiped. You couldn't come up with an original idea so you took somebody else's and then ____ it up. I curse you and your business and I hope you fall flat on your face and go broke.”
To which “Leala” replied: “It's not if his business fails, it's WHEN his business fails.”
Then, as if putting out fire with gasoline, an “Abby” who looks forward to Aclon's cat cafe opening posted: “If you people are worried about those stray cats why don't you just adopt them yourselves or better yet make your own cat café with all the stray cats in Manila! For me I just love the idea of having a cat café with pure breed cats from different places around the world and for someone to spend money just to make his dream come true is really admirable.”
After days of heated and “catty” arguments on what Aclon should and should not do, the embattled overseas foreign worker finally posted a lengthy message addressing those who lashed out on him and those who rallied around his idea of a cat café.
“So much accusations had been thrown even though the hobby-business is not up yet. I do not discriminate Puspins, they are part of Filipino lives and...are irreplaceable,” said Aclon.
But he also wrote about his fascination for purebred cats and how he longed to have and share them with others.
“Why don't you let me share that fascination and love of cats, especially the purebred ones, to Filipinos who are not even aware that they exist? I don't beg for your support, I just want you to understand that sharing these beautiful cats along with beautiful DSHs (domestic shorthairs) is not a crime,” Aclon said.
He also defended his right to have kittens from his purebred cats if he chooses to.
“If I have kittens on the café playing in the corner for people to appreciate, is there something wrong with that—give joy to people?...If my hobby-business can make someone happy why would you be unhappy about it?,” Aclon asked.
“My cat café is not a pet shop. If we get kittens, they would be kept in an enclosed space for protection. A customer might want to buy one, but most likely we would want to keep our kittens with us. The notion of breeding and exploiting is far from my mind as others would think. That is never the objective of my hobby-business,” he told MetroPets.
CAT OUT OF THE BAG
All things considered, Aclon also told MetroPets that he would still try to open Velvet Friends Cat Cafe in Bonifacio Global City.
He promises to train his future employees on proper cat care and how to distinguish the different breeds of cats so they could intelligently answer clients' questions, if any. He also said they will sign an official partnership with a veterinarian who would regularly check on the cats. An experienced cat groomer will also be hired, Aclon added.
In addition, Aclon said they are tentatively working on a “cat school” partnership with a leading manufacturer of cat food to help further raise public awareness about cats.
He said his cat café will make sure it has all documents required by the government. The café will feature a general restaurant area, cat “haven”, cat loo area, and a cat hotel where customers can leave their own cats for a minimum hourly charge while they visit the café's ambassador cats. In addition, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe will have a separate menu for visiting cats
As for Puspins, Aclon said they will be showcased as well as long as they prove to be healthy enough and that the big purebred cats won't bully them.
“I consulted many cat experts here in Singapore and they explained to me the “bully factor". One of them told me that when a cat is bullied and becomes stressed, its immune system deteriorates and becomes susceptible to viruses. On the other hand, local cats tend to have stronger immune system and may not easily show signs of having communicable disease that might affect the imported cats that are still acclimatizing to their new environment,” he said.
The target store opening date may take a little longer if construction is to begin April. But once it's ready, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe will be open during mall hours. An entrance fee to the cat haven is tentatively set at P290 for adults, P240 for students, and P190 for seniors and children aged 10 years old and below.
“I am thrilled to share my dream, however difficult, to those who wish to experience the company of purebred cats. This cat café is for them most of all,” said Chito.
Needless to say, everyone is welcome...well, maybe except the dog.
* One stormy afternoon at Taiwan's Houtong Cat Village