Concern for animal welfare is often based on the belief that non-human animals are sentient and that consideration should be given to their well-being or suffering, especially when they are under the care of humans. These concerns can include how animals are slaughtered for food, how they are used in scientific research, how they are kept (as pets, in zoos, farms, circuses, etc.), and how human activities affect the welfare and survival of wild species.
Animal welfare was a concern of some ancient civilizations but began to take a larger place in Western public policy in 19th-century Great Britain. In the 21st century, it is a significant focus of interest in science, ethics, and animal welfare organizations.
Amongst pet owners and animal lovers, animal welfare is almost tantamount to human welfare as well. And in the Philippines, where there is an increasing number of pet lovers and an existing traditions and customs that kind of put animals in jeopardy (i.e. animal slaughter and continued patronage of animal meat), there are also laws and institutions in place to protect animals welfare and rights.
1. Are there laws governing animal abuse in the Philippines?
Yes. There is Republic Act 8485, also known as The Animal Welfare Act. This law seeks to protect the welfare and well-being of animals. Section 6 of the said act makes it unlawful “to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal.” This law also makes it illegal for a person “to kill or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat” animals.
2. What is animal abuse as defined by the laws of the country governing animal cruelty?
According to the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Executive Director Anna Cabrera explains that animal cruelty is basically any action that violates the five freedoms of animals that are recognized internationally. These freedoms include:
- Freedom from hunger
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
If an act can harm a human being, then the same act done on an animal constitutes animal abuse. Director Anna Cabrera shares, “Our volunteer lawyer and trustee, Atty. Roy Kayaban, always cites in PAWS’ cases VS. animal offenders that humans are animals too, and often the acid test of whether such an act should be allowed is if this would be cruelty to a human as well.”
3. Are there instances where the killing of an animal is not considered abusive?
While there are certain groups which argue that all forms of animal killing is abusive, the Animal Welfare Act lists a number of exceptions. The Animal Welfare Act respects the practice of religious rituals, thus part of Section 6 lists exceptions which include “killing an animal as part of an established religion or sect or a ritual required by tribal or ethnic custom of indigenous cultural communities.” Groups are required to inform the Committee on Animal Welfare (CAW) before a ritual is to be performed.
SECTION 6. It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animals or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horse fights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care sustenance or shelter, or maltreat or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal welfare.
The killing of any animal other than cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabao, horse, deer and crocodiles is likewise hereby declared unlawful except in the following instances:
- When it is done as part of the religious rituals of an established religion or sect or ritual required by ethnic custom of indigenous cultural communities: however, leaders shall keep records in cooperation with the Committee on Animal Welfare;
- When the pet animal is afflicted with an incurable communicable disease as determined and certified by a duly licensed veterinarians;
- When the killing is deemed necessary to put an end to the misery suffered by the animal as determined and certified by a duly licensed veterinarian;
- When it is done to prevent an imminent danger to the life or limb of a human being; and
- When done for the purpose of animal population control;
- When animal is killed after it has been used in authorized research or experiments; and
- Any other ground analogous to the foregoing as determined and certified by a licensed veterinarian.
In all the above mentioned cases, including those of cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabao, hones, deer and crocodiles, the killing of the animals shall be done through humane procedures at all times.
For this purpose, humane procedures shall means the use of the most scientific methods available as may be determined and approved by the Committee.
Only those procedures approved by the Committee shall be used in killing of animals.
However, Anna Cabrera says that “not a single tribe has sent a memo to inform CAW of tribal practice” since most dog slaughters are done not for cultural practices, but for business. “The minute people start selling the dog meat in the market, it is business–an illegal business. Most like to use culture as an excuse, but there are hardly any more than a handful of tribes left that practice dog sacrifice and consumption for a ritual,” she adds.
4. What can one do if they witness acts of animal cruelty or abuse?
There are two options.
- Seek the help of PAWS. PAWS will then send a warning letter to the abuser. Gathering evidence such as photos and videos to support your claim can make the case stronger. You can then send the full name and address of the abuser and the barangay captain’s full name and office address to philpaws[at]yahoo.com. PAWS will course the warning letter to the offender through the barangay.
- File a case or complaint in the barangay. This is especially recommended in cases of dog katay or if you see people selling dog meat. When filing this kind of complaint, you’ll need to file an affidavit. A sample affidavit can be downloaded from the PAWS website.
5. What is the punishment for animal abuse and cruelty?
According to Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act, violators can be punished by “imprisonment of not less than six months nor more than two years or a fine of not less than one thousand pesos nor more than five thousand pesos.”
SECTION 8. Any person who violate, any of the provisions of this Act shall, upon conviction by final judgment, be punished by imprisonment of not less than six (6) months nor more than two (2) years or a fine of not less than One thousand pesos (P1,000) nor more than Five thousand pesos (P5,000) or both at the discretion of the court. If the violation is committed by a juridical person, the officer responsible therefore shall serve the imprisonment when imposed. If violation is committed by an alien, he or she shall be immediately deported after serviced sentence without any further proceedings.
The case of Joseph Carlo Candare, the student who killed a cat in 2009 and wrote about it in his blog, made the news because he was the first person in the country to be convicted of animal abuse.
He was convicted by the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court on May 12, 2011. John Carlo was fined and made to attend an Animal Sensitivity Program by PAWS. He was also instructed to do 2 months of volunteer work at the PAWS Animal Rehab Center, including getting professional psychological help from a psychologist provided by the organization.