NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
By ALMA J. BUELVA
THE heat of the mid-day sun was no match to the flaring tempers of pet lovers who gathered in front of the Quezon City Hall on April 15 to denounce Ordinance No. 2386 that set a four-pet limit per household. This despite an announcement from the Office of Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte that the newer Veterinary Code has superseded and repealed the four-pet rule.
Led by members of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), the rally gathered other animal welfare and rescue groups and private citizens who demand the absolute repeal of Ordinance No. 2386 in a formal, separate document. They said Ordinance 2386 is unfair to pets and their responsible owners in a city that doesn't even have a government program for low-cost or free animal spay and neuter services.
A handful of staff from the office of Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte stood on the sidelines after their futile attempts to explain to the protesters that the Veterinary Code has supposedly omitted the four-pet per household limit.
Anna Cabrera, executive director of PAWS, lamented the lack of consultation with animal welfare groups before the questionable ordinance was passed. She also adamantly questioned the timeline of the signing of the ordinance and the Veterinary code and the distribution of information to the media.
“Ordinance 2386 was signed last March 13 while the Veterinary Code was signed March 26. But on April 8, the Public Affairs and Information Service Office of the Quezon City government sent e-mails to members of media about the provisions of Ordinance 2386. Something is not right. Why would the councilors pass Ordinance 2386 barely two weeks before the signing of the Veterinary Code that will repeal it? Clearly, they lack coordination,” said Cabrera.
Ordinance No. 2386 was authored by councilors Jessica Castelo Daza and Raquel Malañgen, and was called the Comprehensive Animal Regulation and Control Ordinance. Although signed by Mayor Herbert Bautista, it not only had no Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), it was also superseded by the Veterinary Code that no longer set any pet limit per household, said Atty. Francis Germar from the Office of Vice Mayor Belmonte.
After the rally, an impromptu meeting between Germar and Cabrera took place outside the city hall's lobby. Germar reiterated that in Sec. 68 of the Veterinary Code “all ordinances, issuance, rules and regulations inconsistent with the provisions of the Code have been repealed, amended, rescinded and/or modified accordingly.”
Cabrera, however, was not buying it. She pointed out that nothing in the Veterinary Code explicitly mentions the repeal of the four-pet limit, adding that to treat it as an “incidental” is dangerous as it can be subject to anyone's interpretation still.
“The Veterinary Code was not crafted to repeal Ordinance 2386. It doesn't mention anything about the four-pet limit. The bulk of it is about meat inspection and hot meat...Huwag niyo kami paikutin (Don't give us the runaround). Apologize to the animal welfare groups and responsible pet owners and repeal the four-pet rule in a separate document. Don't give us the Veterinary Code as an excuse to cover your mistake,” said Cabrera.
Germar said they will find out why their media office released a bulletin on Ordinance 2386. He, however, said that the Veterinary Code is not just about meat inspection because its Article VI and VII deal with the registration of domesticated animals, the impounding and disposal of unclaimed pets, the liability of pet owners when their pets cause injury to others, and about rabies control and prevention.
Still, animal lovers present were not satisfied with his explanations or the official statement of the QC government and demanded something in black-and-white.
“Don't hide behind this thick Veterinary Code where you just seem to be spitting out a subsequent law to make a bad dream go away,” said Cabrera. “You give us copies of this Code to study when those behind Ordinance 2386 who should have done their homework.”
At the rally, animal advocates and pet owners took turn expressing their views on the four-pet limit per household in Quezon City, some of them not even from Quezon City but wanted to empathize and show solidarity so Ordinance 2386 would not be duplicated elsewhere in the country.
“The four-pet limit is not a lasting solution. Pets must be fixed – “kapon” – to solve the pet over population problem,” said Cabrera.
Some protesters admonished the Quezon City government for passing Ordinance 2386 that could be used to harass responsible pet owners by anyone who don't like pets. Because one of its objectives was supposedly to prevent the spread of rabies and other animal-human transmitted diseases, one protester rebuked the filthy Quezon City pound as the source of zoonotic diseases.
“Quezon City government clean your own backyard first,” a woman protester yelled. “If you want to catch zoonotic diseases, go to the Quezon City pound where the dogs are in small cages together, with no food and water.”
Another woman lashed out that “it's not the government's business how many friends she wants to invite or keep in her house. If my friends happen to have four legs, but I can responsibly take care of them, why take them away from me or fine me?”
Lastly, a representative from CARA Welfare Philippines emotionally berated the local government for threatening to limit the number of pets per household when the squatter areas are full of people living shanties “tapos ang dami dami pang anak (and with lots of children).” The CARA member also said responsible pet owners should be allowed to take care of as many pets as they can, but those irresponsible pet owners, “kahit isa, hindi pwede (not even one is allowed).”
Germar said they will make sure to contact all stakeholders like CARA when the IRR of the Veterinary Code is to be fleshed out.
* One stormy afternoon at Taiwan's Houtong Cat Village