How to stop the spread of rabies
Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte had a dialogue last Friday with animal welfare groups led by the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Compassion and Responsibility for Animals, Philippine Animal Rescue Team, Save All, Cat Care Philippines, and interested pet owners on the hated Ordinance No. 2386 authored by Councilors Raquel Malañgen and Jessica Castelo Daza. Among other things, the ordinance limits pet ownership to only four and charges violators with huge penalties, as well as a P500-fee a year for each pet registered. If you have four dogs and cats, that’s a cool P2,000 a year for which you get nothing in return but threats of more fines and fees.
The excuse for the ordinance is to control the spread of rabies, but I think it is also a fund-raising measure because the Quezon City government needs more and more funds to feed the appetite of councilors. While the pork barrel in Congress has been abolished, do you know that each Quezon City councilor still has a P4-million pork barrel annually? There are 30 of them so take your calculators out and compute how much of the hard-earned money of taxpayers go to support councilors who pass such stupid ordinances as Ordinance No. 2386.
Quezon City is already a comparatively well-developed city. All the streets are concrete, there are enough schools, barangay halls, waiting sheds, etc., so where does all that money go? The Commission on Audit should audit the finances of the Quezon City government.
What the city needs is housing for its squatters whose shanties blight many parts of the city. Ostensibly to build homes for them, the city council passed an ordinance charging property owners an additional 25 percent of their real estate tax. Property owners dutifully paid through the nose, thinking that at last their lots would be freed of squatters. No such thing happened. The squatters are still there although City Hall must have collected billions of pesos from the real estate tax surcharge. Again, where did all that money go?
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Back to the dialogue with Vice Mayor Belmonte on animal welfare and the ordinance that angered animal lovers and owners.
Belmonte apologized for not consulting animal welfare groups as mandated by law before passing Ordinance No. 2386. She said that anyway, it has been repealed by the new Veterinary Code.
Pet owners, however, are still wary as the code’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are still being written and they fear that Ordinance No. 2386’s objectionable provisions may be smuggled into the IRR. And lawyers will surely differ on the interpretation of the Veterinary Code.
Some lawyers will concede that Ordinance No. 2386 has been repealed by the code, but there will surely be others who will say the opposite. To make sure, they proposed that another ordinance be passed clearly repealing Ordinance No. 2386.
Belmonte promised that the code’s repealing clause will clearly identify the ordinances that have been repealed by enumerating their numbers.
She also invited the animal welfare groups to be the city government’s partners in crafting amendments to the Veterinary Code. She asked them to write down their inputs and send them to her. She also promised to consult them regularly, as they seem to know more about animal welfare than the city veterinarian.
It is clear that not much thought and study went into the crafting of the ordinance. It assumed that by limiting pet ownership, rabies spread will be stopped. Wrong.
Rabies is spread by unvaccinated stray animals. They are the ones that bite passersby and infect them. The solution is to limit stray animals, not pet ownership.
If you limit pet ownership, you will increase the number of strays. Owners who have more than the allowable number will have to turn out the excess and they will be among the strays. And what if your dog or cat gives birth to a littler of five or six puppies or kittens? The solution of irresponsible pet owners is to throw them away in parks, streets and sewers.
Compassionate people rescue them and take care of them, have them vaccinated, spayed and neutered, feed them appropriate food and take them to the veterinarian regularly. That is why they have many cats and dogs. You limit their pets to four and they will stop rescuing abandoned animals. So you increase the number of strays that spread rabies.
Strays multiply very fast. One cat will give birth to an average of five kittens every two months. The kittens will themselves give birth to their own litters after a few months, and so on in a chain reaction. So you can imagine how fast they could multiply in the streets.
The solution is to spay and neuter them. But since veterinarians charge thousands of pesos per animal for the procedure, many pet owners prefer to just throw away the kittens and puppies. The best solution is for the city to offer spay/neuter services at the barangay level to indigent pet owners. Similarly, pets and even stray animals should be vaccinated against rabies for free. Stopping the uncontrolled reproduction of pets, which will dramatically reduce the number of stray animals, coupled with free/low cost rabies vaccinations, is the solution to the rabies problem—not taking pets from caring homes.
Quezon City is the richest city in the Philippines. It can afford to give these services to residents in exchange for the taxes they pay.
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