Baba’s Asong Pinoy Rescue Ko (BARK) Project was born out of a visceral reaction to Tambuchco Euthanasia. It was simply the final straw for the people of BARK. We could look the other way when walking past stray dogs. It was more difficult when the street dog, or “askal,” was rail thin or clearly diseased. Harder still was accepting that askals have no one to provide basic care for them, let alone show love and affection. What could not be ignored, though, was the horrific way that these animals had to die. Having lived a miserable life, they would fittingly be put to death in an inhumane fashion.
All across the Philippines, The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) collects street dogs and brings them to the city dog pound. The dogs stay there for three days, being housed in overcrowded cages and given no food or water, or opportunities to exercise. If after three days no one claims the askal, it is stuffed in a metal chamber with the rest of that day’s “kill batch.” With the dogs clawing away inside, madly barking and squealing out of fear, a man revs his car engine. The car’s exhaust is funneled from the car muffler, or tambucho, into the chamber, where it disallows the combination of hemoglobin with oxygen in the dog’s lungs. It can take a full ten minutes before hypoxia results and the dog passes out. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, producing CO via this method is “associated with the production of other gases, achieving inadequate concentrations of Carbon Monoxide, inadequate cooling of the gas, and maintenance of equipment.” It concludes that the only humane source of CO used for euthanizing animals is lab produced cylinders of the gas. There is an upside to Tambucho Euthanasia though: it costs the city only five pesos (about ten US cents) to euthanize one animal this way, as opposed to the more expensive lethal injection technique. It was recently given the ok by the Department of Agriculture in the Revised Rules and Regulations on the Euthanasia of Animals.1
The project has two purposes. First, it attempts to assuage the suffering of a small group of puppies in Davao by sourcing permanent homes for them. Closely related to this is the work that BARK is doing to better the conditions of Ma’a City Pound. The second and more important purpose of the project is to effect long term change in how stray animals are viewed and treated by the community, via an educational campaign on humane animal care and responsible pet ownership.
The project will start on a small, informal scale so that adjustments can be made seamlessly. After the 3 day stray hold period elapses, a dog selected to be admitted to BARK will be transported from Ma’a City Pound to the Baba’s Foundation Headquarters in Buhangin. It will stay there until a foster home is identified and taken through a two step screening process. First, they will complete a written application to foster a dog with BARK. If their application is suitable and they agree to BARK’s foster care policies, a home visit will be scheduled, whereby BARK personnel will check the potential foster parent’s home for confirmation of the truthfulness of the applicant’s statements in the written application. If the home is suitable for foster care and the volunteer signs off on the policies, they will then be debriefed on responsible pet ownership, including the basics of dog care. At that point, the home is eligible to receive a dog from BARK.
All dogs that are taken from the City Pound are immediately scheduled to have an intake health examination, to be completed by Ken or Cris Lao of The Ark Animal Health Clinic. If the dog is medically cleared by the veterinarian, it then undergoes a formal temperament test so that no potentially aggressive dog is placed in a foster home. Once its behavioral affect is diagnosed and cleared, the dog is scheduled for its vaccinations, including a 5 in 1 vaccine (initial shot and boosters), Animal Anti-Rabies vaccine (initial shot and booster), and de-worming pills. When given the Animal Anti-Rabies vaccine, the dog is registered as property of Baba’s Foundation Incorporated (BFI), and remains so until a permanent home is identified and screened via the application process. Further, a mandatory spay/neuter session is scheduled with the veterinarian. All medical expenses and equipment, excluding dog food and water, are paid for by BARK.
The animal is eligible to be adopted by either the foster parents or another eligible party, with precedence given to the foster parents. Advertising has already begun to source both foster and adopting homes, and an equal amount of diligence will be paid in the adopter screening process as in the foster home one. While most of the policies for adoption remain the same as those for fostering, an adopter must pay a one time 500 Peso fee, so as to promote a sense of ownership and to offset the expenses of BARK. After the potential adopter visits the animal in foster care, signs off on BARK’s adoption policies, and pays the fee, the dog is delivered by BARK staff to the adopter’s home and the formal registration of the dog changes names from BFI to the adopter. Random in-home visits are completed to ensure that the dog is being properly cared for.
The second bit of direct relief work that BARK is involved in is working with the City Veterinarian’s Office to improve the conditions of Ma’a Dog Pound. With a combination of donated dog food and table scraps donated by participating restaurants, staff will feed all the dogs in The Pound once per day, Monday through Friday (permanent food and water containers have been installed). BARK continues to advocate against Tambucho Killings through researching cheap, humane euthanasia techniques, while fundraising both locally and internationally to obtain the money for implementation. Representatives from the City Veterinarian’s Office and Department of Agriculture have already been met with to determine the government’s partnering role in this aspect of the project.
Description of preventative intervention (educational campaign):
For a detailed description of the exercises used, visit the educational campaign page.
Industry experts have been consulted with in each stage of project growth, from conceptualization to implementation. They include Jean Webber (Director of Animal Protection of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Anna Hashim-Cabrera (Program Director of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society), Luis Buenaflor (Director for Operations and External Affairs of Animal Kingdom Foundation Inc.), Leonard Coyne (Soi Dog Foundation), Jill and Joseph Palarca (Creative Directors of Mypetchannel.tv), Dr. Ken and Cris Lao (veterinarians of The Ark Animal Health Clinic), Stephen Jensen (architect of Blue Sky Animal Care Architecture), Dr. Linda Marston (research fellow at Anthrozoology Research Group, Monash University), Kate Mornement (PhD student at Anthrozoology Research Group, Monash University), and Dr. Armando Barbadillo (Department Head of the Davao City Veterinarians Office). The main implementing agent of the Project will be Baba’s Foundation Incorporated, with support from veterinarians from both the public and private sector.
Potential limitations and proposed solutions:
- Baba’s Foundation has limited expertise in the management of a foster care network. Because of this, it will need to work closely with industry experts throughout the project’s initial stages. Research by BFI personnel on proper animal care (ex. sanitation) will be conducted to assure adequate staff capacity.
- BARK is faced with limited resources, and as such, sustainability may be at risk. Aggressive fundraising via a website campaign and community fundraising events will need to be developed to mitigate this threat. Donors will be solicited both locally and internationally through a PayPal account.
- The limited scale of the network may prove insignificant in assuaging the suffering of street dogs in Davao. Although provisions for expansion have been taken into account, the gravity of the problem remains overwhelming in comparison to what can be achieved.
- Foster care is an alien concept to some Filipino Nationals, with long-term adoption commitments being strongly preferred to short-term ones. BARK will need to advertise the benefits of temporary housing to the community, so that volunteers may be more inclined to provide short-term housing.