Though now with a face only a mother can love, Kabang is loved by everyone who knows of her extraordinary tale. On Dec. 14, 2011, the dog saved the lives of two young female cousins in Zamboanga City who were crossing a street unaware that a speeding motorcycle was heading their way. Kabang, the family pet, leapt into the motorcycle’s path and averted certain tragedy.
The girls were unharmed but Kabang (a Visayan term for “spotted”) was not. The motorcycle had struck her face and her snout was caught in the front wheel. After she was freed, with part of her snout torn off, Kabang fled to parts unknown and was not seen for two weeks. She returned to the Bunggal family home with a badly disfigured face. But for the gaping wound, she was in good shape.
The Inquirer first reported Kabang’s story in February 2012, and it was quickly picked up by the local and foreign media. There was an outpouring of donations and goodwill for the dog and her human family. Dr. Anton Lim of the Tzu Chi Foundation was among the first veterinarians to treat her and devote time to monitor her condition. “Kabang saved lives and that makes her a hero,” Lim said.
With sufficient donations, a plan was finalized last October for the dog to receive treatment in the United States. Lim accompanied her to the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where she was treated for various ailments including heartworm and cancer, and where she warmed the hearts of medical personnel and animal-welfare advocates with her cheery nature.
Kabang returned to the Philippines early this month with a mended face and a growing number of admirers. Her handlers mean to have her serve as “ambassador of dogwill,” a rather cute term that trains light on the dark side of keeping animals as pets in this country.
Who hasn’t heard of the horror stories of humans unfit to have domestic animals as companions—the shocking cruelty, the commercial trade in pedigreed dogs and cats that cater to those who want pets only as status symbols, the continuing theft and butchery of dogs for their meat?
And who can forget the dog-fighting operations involving pit bulls that kept resurfacing in various provinces like a bad penny? In 2012 more than 300 dogs were rescued from a dog-fighting facility in Laguna and a number of Koreans were arrested. Was appropriate punishment meted out?
The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Cara Welfare Philippines (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) and like-minded groups have much to say about responsible pet ownership. PAWS said it receives an estimated 40 reports of animal abuse every day.
Early this month, Congress approved a beefed-up animal welfare bill on its last session day. The new measure amends the Animal Welfare Act and imposes increased punishment for anyone who neglects, abuses or mistreats animals, with a maximum penalty of a P250,000 fine and an attached three-year jail term.
Under the previous law, the maximum penalty was a P5,000 fine and two years in jail. The new measure also imposes harsher penalties for people convicted of dog meat trading and running a dog-fighting business. In particular, it notes that public officials and employees who mistreat animals will be meted the highest punishment, right along with those whose businesses involve the abuse of animals—an affirmation that those in public office are obliged to set the correct example for others to follow.
There has been a public discussion on who should care for Kabang now that she is back with Rudy Bunggal, who was provided a house in a resettlement area by the Zamboanga City government on the condition that he properly tend to the dog.
Bunggal’s circumstances are that he hardly makes a living, and it is quite possible that Kabang will not be assured of the care she needs. Kabang has now come to represent the cheerful, loving creatures that provide unqualified happiness to households lucky to have them.
We call for her continuing well-being, and believe that the people who will ensure that well-being, like Anton Lim, should be granted custody. Let it be a gift to Kabang—and to all who strive to make the world safe for the beasts and the children.