The tragic events that had impacted various part of the country, from the Taal volcano eruption early this year and the recent super typhoon have clearly unraveled a more disastrous consequence that has not been given much attention: the animals being left behind.
While we are aware that the House of Representatives has recently approved HB 5989 or the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), it missed the inclusion of animals in the bill’s provisions. There was no consultation with animal welfare groups who could have shared important ideas for the benefit of would-be-distressed animals.
It is very clear from recent incidents that the affected families who are reliant on their livestock and are hugely concerned over the plight of their pets could not possibly save all their animals without being helped by the government.
The uproar from both pet and farm animal owners as well as from the animal welfare groups like Animal Kingdom Foundation regarding the safety of animals in time of emergencies is highly understandable. While human lives are far greater in terms of priority, the animals however, are also part of the lives of the people and in fact, pets are family members and hence, deserve the same if not equal protection in times of calamities and disasters. Quite reasonably, we feel that there should have been a far more effective response from the government in ensuring that animals are included in any disaster and evacuation plans.
Animals whom humans are dependent for food and nutrition, for farm works, for security as watch/guard dogs (including K9s), for research and science to discover medical solutions for human diseases and much more. We are very much dependent on the animals to ensure balance in the world we live in and yet we readily neglect them especially during disasters.
Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), as an NGO, strongly believes and recognizes that the improved disaster resilience programs should not only cover protection of human life and property but also the protection of animals. Animals suffer and feel pain as sentient beings. Similar to humans, they are capable of feelings, including pain, distress, suffering and pleasure.
Animals provide food and livelihood for the communities. The Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare provides that “about a billion of the world’s poorest people depend on animals for food, income, social status or cultural identification. The Taal volcano eruption early this year impacted the livelihood of the affected communities. During natural disasters, people affected not only fear for their lives and safety, but also worry about their lost income and livelihood. Animals are the main source of income of the residents on the volcano island. In fact, residents make their living by offering horse rides to tourists who are visiting the Taal volcano’s craters. Death of a great number of horses is a major blow on their livelihood. Likewise, death of pigs, cows and other livestock greatly affects the communities who are dependent on them for food and livelihood. With the recent super typhoon Rolly, we can only await how much devastation it caused on animal lives impacting the economy and livelihood of the local communities.
Pet animals provide emotional support, companionship and security. They help us reduce stress and anxiety and alleviate any feeling of loneliness and depression. It bears to point out that ensuring a safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities, the government should also involve animals and their welfare to be fully integrated into the disaster resilience and management plans, program, projects and activities as they are hugely a part of our daily lives.
A pro-active response from the government is greatly expected. We must save the animals, too!