Editorial: Pushing for co-existence

Distressing on many levels was the SunStar Davao report on Sept. 6 about the four puppies found beheaded in Barangay San Miguel at the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) in Davao del Norte.

The Animal Welfare Act of 1998 prohibits cruelty to animals. Section 6 of the Republic Act No. 8485 declares it unlawful for a person to torture an animal; deny it “adequate care, sustenance or shelter;” enter an animal for dogfights or horse fights; and maltreat an animal for research or experiments that are not authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare.

The cruelty shown in the San Miguel crime is not just a flagrant violation of the law. Now the subject of a manhunt by the Igacos police, the perpetrator either has no compunction to hide the bodies as evidence of his or her crime or manifests a deviancy approaching psychopathic disorder that desires to shock and violate others through the killings.

As many acts of animal cruelty prove, no animal is worse than humans in performing deliberate and unprovoked cruelty and destruction. Scientists and law enforcement authorities long established a link between animal torture and psychopathy. The torture and killing of animals was practiced by many murderers and serial killers when they were children or adolescents, as documented in case studies.

Given the sometimes casual and ordinary acts of neglect and cruelty shown to animals—such as throwing away a litter of newborn kittens or poisoning stray cats or dogs because the animals leave waste judged to be offensive and unhygienic—citizens must reflect on the social implications of committing or condoning acts of animal cruelty or neglect because of the lax enforcement of RA 8485.

In their paper on “Psychopathy and Animal Cruelty Offenders,” researchers Sara C. Haden, Shelby E. McDonald, and Wyatt D’Emilia hold that “animal cruelty (AC) is related to adult violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse, and elder abuse”. As with humans, companion animals are frequently the targets and victims by perpetrators they share a home with.

The SunStar Davao reported that the owner denied that he beheaded the puppies. He admitted, though, that he hired a person to get rid of the puppies because they were infested with fleas.

The failure to perceive that the act of throwing animals like garbage explains the impunity of violence committed against animals and humans in our society. The minimum responsibility of a person sharing their home with companion animals is to provide for food, shelter, and health care, such as regular checks with a veterinarian practicing in a public or private capacity.

Providing a stark contrast in terms of co-existence and respect for the life and dignity of animals is Bacolod City’s “Care Kapon ang Solusyon,” an animal welfare program implemented jointly by public and private partners.

According to a July 27 report by Mary Grace Peralta Gonzales in SunStar Bacolod, the program aims to address the stray animal population by holding mass free spay and neuter operations in barangays, as well as seminars on animal welfare, responsible pet ownership, RA 8485, and Republic Act No. 9482 (Anti-Rabies Act), among others.

Keeping a pet entails reciprocal duties and responsibilities, such as keeping animals behind enclosures, vaccinating them against rabies and other diseases, spaying females and neutering males to prevent overpopulation and risks to the health of people and animals.

Bacolod’s program on animal welfare is notable for its involvement of volunteers from veterinarians to animal welfare advocates and youths.

Respect for life and the dignity of others, whether human or animal, must be the metric for civilization. Co-existence among all species is one indelible lesson from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the first and probably not the last pandemic triggered by a zoonotic disease transmitted from animals to humans because of the latter’s cruelty, avarice, and selfishness.