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MANILA, Philippines – Humans are always the first to be snatched from danger during rescue operations for residents fleeing floodwaters, and Tuesday’s disaster caused by sustained torrential rains in Metro Manila and nearby provinces was no exception.
But the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) hopes that the government and kind-hearted folks can spare help to also bring to safety household pets and farm animals abandoned by their owners.
PAWS said it is trying to organize a rescue team to fetch stranded animals in homes submerged in floodwaters, but Anna Cabrera, the group’s executive director, said some of their members are also having difficulty leaving their homes and going to their office in Marikina, where the rescue boat is parked.
“We usually let the people rescuers go first, then we come in after them. I just hope the pet owners would not leave their pets unless it was a very extreme situation, and let’s all pray the rains will stop,” Cabrera said.
Kabataan party-list Representative Mong Palatino recently filed a resolution calling for the inclusion of animal welfare in disaster preparedness, relief and response program.
“Animal welfare is an essential component of sustainable development. All forms of life co-exist within an interdependent ecosystem and the humane treatment and use of animals have major benefits for humans,” Palatino said.
During disasters, many residents refuse to leave their homes and their pets despite the clear danger. Similarly, farmers would not also leave behind their livestock such as pigs, cattle, goats and water buffalo.
According to Palatino, PAWS estimated that 10 percent of households in the country own a companion animal. In the rural areas, livestock and poultry supplement the income and food supply of crop farmers.
“By including animals in disaster preparedness and relief operations, the government saves households means of income and thereby promote faster recovery from the effect of calamity,” he said.
“As their means of livelihood are spared from danger, families will become less dependent on relief goods, and would hasten the time they would spend at evacuation centers, thereby lowering health risks associated with emergency evacuation,” he added.
Palatino said that there is now a trend in other countries such as the United States to include animals in the development of an emergency farm, barn and animal evacuation plan.
In Louisiana, the local government has put to place an Emergency Support Function that addresses all hazards preparedness and responses to emergencies related to food, livestock, and household pets.
After hurricane Katrina, the US Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, which mandates state and local agencies to accommodate pets and service animals in disaster plans in order to receive federal funding.
On the local scene, during the 2009 eruption of Mt. Mayon, the Albay local government asked the International Fund for Animal Welfare to help evacuate affected animals.
After the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy in 2009, PAWS provided rescue and relief to around 3,000 animals in affected areas.
For the current disaster, PAWS said it is accepting donations of pet food and cages for animals. The donations may be brought to the PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center, Aurora Blvd., Katipunan Valley, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Volunteers will attempt to rescue them within the next few days, Cabrera said.