CAR AWEOs briefed on the elimination of dog meat trade

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BAGUIO CITY  – Following the national plan of action to eliminate the trade in dog meat in the Philippines, a forum on to introduce the role of animal welfare enforcement officers (AWEOs) in the implementation of the animal welfare act was done at the Chalet Hotel, Baguio City last June 6-7, 2017 spearheaded by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) with the support of the Cordillera office of the Department of Agriculture (DA–CAR).

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and other law enforcement agencies together with the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), Baguio City Veterinary Office (CVO), Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO)–Benguet, and the Baguio Animal Welfare (BAW) all convened for the said activity.

The Animal Welfare Act was enacted to protect and promote the welfare of all animals in the Philippines by supervising and regulating the establishment and operation of all facilities utilized for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating or training of all animals either as objects of trade or as household pets and the goal of the workshop is to forge partnerships with NGO’s, Private Individuals and Law-enforcement agencies to strengthen and drive this act.

Dr. Ma. Gracia Flores, National Animal Welfare Focal Person at BAI, discussed animal welfare laws, policies, guidelines, and the role of AWEOs in detail to give a background and a clearer picture of what the advocacy is.

To understand better how animal welfare works, Dr. Flores presented the five basic freedoms of animals: freedom from hunger and thirst,  physical discomfort and pain, injury or disease; to express natural behavior; and from fear and distress. These guiding principles will help determine violations against animals. “Equal treatment should be done to everyone, animal or human,” she said.

The killing of any animal other than cattle, pig, goat, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabao, and horse is likewise declared unlawful except in the following instances: 1. when it is done as part of religious rituals of an established religion or sect or ritual required by the ethnic custom of indigenous cultural communities, however, leaders must keep a record in cooperation with the Committee on Animal Welfare; 2. when the pet animal is afflicted with an incurable communicable disease as determined and certified by a duly licensed veterinarian; 3. when the animal is deemed necessary to put an end to the misery suffered by the animal as determined by a veterinarian; 4. when it is done for the purpose of animal population control; 5. when it is done to prevent an imminent danger to the life or limb of a human being, and 6. when an animal is killed after it has been used in authorized research experiments.

With regards to the counterpart of the local government units (LGUs)and the deputization and designation of AWEOs, Engr. Emelita Danganan of the Department of Interior and Local Government Unit-Bureau of Local Government Supervision (DILG-BLGS), explained its implementation, mentioning that arrest and apprehension of law breakers are a part of their role.

The LGUs are also tasked to create an animal welfare desk wherein all reports and complaints will be accommodated and through the coordinated efforts between agencies, AWEO’s can supervise and monitor all information.

For the non-governmental organization (NGO) side, Atty. Heidi Caguioa, Head and Legal Counsel of the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), talked about their interventions and how animal welfare is implemented particularly on the elimination of the dog meat trade practices.

Other issues brought up were irresponsible pet ownership and breeding, animals in entertainment, dog and horse fights, and farm and zoo animals.

Due to the ignorance and lack of awareness about these issues, AKF goes around changing this, as Atty. Caguioa said, “let’s not prosecute, let’s educate.”

AKF also partnered with concerned government agencies to bolster support with a recent donation of a Polymerase-Chain Reactor (PCR) machine to detect dog meat even if cooked was made to the NMIS and through this apparatus, meat for evidence can be tested and results are out in three days.

Dr. Armie Sebello from NMIS laid down the specifics of the job for meat inspectors in eradicating dog meat and its relation to food safety. As the sole controlling meat authority in the country, NMIS’ priority is to make sure that food animals are killed humanely as their handling affects the quality of the meat.

Dogs, on the other hand, are categorized as hot meat if they do not undergo antemortem-post-mortem inspection thus considered as not safe for food consumption as it considered zoonotic, the transfer of animal diseases to humans in which rabies is one of them.

The Animal Welfare Act of 1998, The Anti-rabies Act of 2007, The Consumer Act, the Food Safety Act, the Meat Inspection Code as amended by RA 10536, are the laws being violated in the consumption of “hot meat”

At the end of the seminar, a workshop was done wherein participants were given hypothetical situations to analyze and help them address possible courses of action given the scenario.

By Ayra Galanza

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