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December 7, 2011

The Philippines: On the Fast Track to Positive Change for Animals

Humane Society International

  • Local vets getting hands-on practice. Kelly O'Meara/HSI

  • Lectures are also part of training sessions. Kelly O'Meara/HSI

  • Nets are more humane than wire nooses. Kelly O'Meara/HSI

  • Poster advertising a meeting on the subject. Kelly O'Meara/HSI

HSI began our work in the Philippines nearly 10 years ago, but our recent agreements with the Cebu City local government and Southwestern University veterinary college have led to success at a whole new level.

Significant progress

Through conferences and trainings HSI has offered over the years, a greater awareness of humane and effective means of animal control has gradually spread among Filipino professionals in the field. In 2010, two particularly motivated and progressive officials, Dr. Alice Utlang (head provincial vet of Cebu City) and Mayor Michael Rama, signed a two-year agreement with HSI which immediately eliminated gas chambers for the killing of street dogs, replaced cruel wire nooses with catch nets, and initiated spay/neuter throughout local communities. Two sterilization clinics were created in the city, while community leaders, called Barangay Captains, were assigned to spearhead the education of their neighbors about the importance of spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership.

Help animals as an HSI Street Dog Defender.

The model animal control program developed by the Cebu City government, local communities and HSI is gaining notice across the country. Kelly O’Meara, HSI’s director of Companion Animals and Engagement with HSI said, “In all of the programs that we implement worldwide, this type of progress and response is just what we hope for. There is a domino effect happening here, and with each positive change made, thousands of dogs are helped. It’s inspiring.”

In addition to sterilizing 3,000 dogs in 2011, Cebu City also managed to completely renovate its animal control program to use the most humane and effective methods. Goals for 2012 include sterilizing 14,000 more dogs and offering training to surrounding cities on Cebu island, striving for an end to any cruel treatment towards street dogs there.

Meanwhile, HSI just completed our third spay/neuter training in partnership with Southwestern University in 2011, reaching 45 vets throughout the Philippines. With each group of 15 vets trained by HSI lead veterinarians Dr. Sunil Chawla and Dr. Rey Del Napoles, knowledge of the best and fastest spay/neuter procedures is spreading and these are now used on various islands and cities throughout the nation. HSI will offer three more trainings in 2012.

Grateful for options

Signs of change are everywhere, including on two islands with vets who participated in the 2011 trainings, Bohol and Marinduque. Leaders there had hoped to incorporate spay/neuter as a component of their animal control programs, but their vets lacked the necessary skills. Reluctantly, the vets had resorted to killing street dogs, mainly by shooting them. Now armed with better surgical techniques, vets are now feeling more confident about performing spay/neuter instead. Head provincial veterinarians are now including sterilization as a major component of their animal control programs for 2012. Killing programs are disappearing and being replaced with the humane and effective tools being introduced for dog population control, from handling and capture to shelter management. The local government on the island of Bohol has even taken the step of building a spay/neuter clinic, offering low-cost surgery on Mondays each week.

We hope that this is just the beginning of a brighter future for street dogs and their communities in the Philippines. The helplessness once felt in the veterinary community due to a lack of alternatives to lethal control is gone. The vets never wanted to kill dogs, but didn’t feel they had other options for reducing the stray population. Now, they are making changes for the better as fast as they can. One Filipino provincial vet attending the recent HSI training expressed his dislike of the previous dog eradication program, saying emotionally, “I became a veterinarian to help animals. I never wanted to kill dogs, and now I won’t have to anymore.” Give now to support our efforts.

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