How to save a life? 6 practical ways to help a homeless animal
Once there was a female cat who lived in a small house. She then reached reproductive maturity and bore numerous kittens. Her owner didn’t know what to do on her. The getting bigger cat family had become unmanageable so one day, her owner decided to just throw her away, together with her little kitties. Unfortunately, only a female kitty survived. Without a home, they would only stay on any roofed place, enduring the hotness of the day and the coldness of the night. Without permanent source of food, they became the neighborhood’s most hated burglars. Days and months had passed by and one night, the kitten’s lifeless body was seen on the street. She was hit by a vehicle. And Mother cat, clueless on what happened to her little one, suddenly became alone.
This is a typical story of a stray animal. Tiny Earth creatures struggling to co-exist with humans. The only thing they want is food to eat and home to stay, and for whatever reasons, a great number of people deny their right to live.
But why are there even stray animals?
In general, the stray animals we see on the streets used to be household pets. When the owner cannot afford to provide for their needs, they will be thrown away. As these abandoned pets commonly do not undergo a spay-neuter operation (Filipino tran: Kapon), chances are, they will mate with fellow homeless animals, producing a new generation of strays. And this has become a cyclical pattern in many communities.
To regulate their population, Philippine local government units, through Republic Act 9482, or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007, have implemented local ordinances to capture animals roaming in public places and then deliver them into an animal pound. For a certain period, the captured animals would be open for the owner’s claiming and adoption. For the unfortunate ones who would fail to find a home, they will be permanently put into sleep through euthanasia.
Still, despite these measures, stray animals remain to be a persistent problem in many communities. Some would say that it is the poor implementation of the ordinances. Some would say that there is a lack of animal welfare education and awareness of Republic Act 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act of 1998. Or maybe it is rooted in something deeper — the lack of compassion towards animals.
How can we, ordinary citizens, help in the ailing problem of stray animals?
1. Adopt, don’t shop.
Maybe the greatest companion you can ever have is a homeless furry baby waiting for your rescue.
Many animal shelters, either managed by an animal welfare organization or by a concerned citizen, are opening their doors to people willing to adopt. Since most shelters have limited space and budget, adopting one would create a new slot for catering of a new helpless animal. An advantage of adopting from a shelter is that the animals are already vaccinated and have undergone sterilization procedures. Moreover, most of them are behavior-evaluated; hence, you can have an idea of his/her personality.
It is also highly encouraged to directly adopt an animal who is under an ill situation or have uncertain futures. These could be nursing mothers, kittens, and puppies intentionally thrown in the streets or those animal pound captures who are in the death row.
However, when adopting, ensure that you will give them the proper care and attention that they deserve.
2. Spay and neuter surgeries (Kapon)
Sexual activities of animals are driven by instinct; thus, it is innate for them to mate every mating season and produce offspring profusely. Hence, to limit their population, sterilization is actively encouraged.
If you are a pet owner, having your pet spayed/neutered can reduce his/her desire to go out of the house to find a mate. Moreover, you are helping a homeless female animal by limiting her encounters with potential mates, reducing her chance of being impregnated.
There are also animal welfare organizations that implement “trap, neuter, and return” (TNR) programs. In a TNR program, stray animals are captured from their habitats to be sterilized and marked. After healing, they are either returned to their original colony or brought to animal shelters for adoption.
The cost of this operation in the Philippines varies. If you are tight on budget, you can contact your Municipal Agriculture’s Office or government-owned veterinary clinics if they offer free or low-cost services. You may also want to be updated on various free operations organized by civil society groups through their social media accounts. In particular, the Philippine Pet Birth Control Center Foundation is among the active organizations that conducts low-cost sterilization.
If due to your circumstance you cannot adopt a homeless animal, you can always share a few of your earnings to animal shelters to provide for their needs. You can also share to crowdfunding to assist veterinary bills of rescued animals. However, check first the legitimacy of the organization or the individual before donating as there are plenty of scammers nowadays.
Note: At the end of this blog, I provided a list of some of the registered organizations in the Philippines that you may consider donating to.)
4. Report immediately!
If you saw an animal who requires immediate help, don’t hesitate to contact animal welfare institutions (see list at the end of article) or even the police if someone is violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Social media groups have been instrumental to spread awareness on the ethical treatment of animals and has become a platform for reporting abandoned and maltreated animals. For instance, in one of my groups, Cats and Kitten Philippines, concerned citizens would post photos of cats who are under emergency situations. Through collective action of likes and comments, a concerned citizen near the location would most likely provide the necessary assistance.
Note: The Power of ‘Up: Commenting ‘Up’ in overlooked Facebook posts can increase its chance to pop up again in someone’s news feed. Give away your ‘Up’ particularly in crucial situations.
5. Volunteer on an animal welfare organization
In case you cannot adopt one or provide a tangible donation, you can always donate your excess energy and spare time. Some animal shelters need regular feeders and sometimes ambassadors during their fundraising events.
6. Your leftovers can save them
As a zero food waste advocate, let me tell you that your leftovers can save a hungry stray animal. It has become a practice of mine to leave leftovers in a bowl in front of our house, ready to be eaten by a passing stray. However, ensure that your leftover is still of good quality and does not contain toxic substances (example: chocolate) that may harm them.
There are hundreds of ways how to save a life. Whether it be saving a dog’s life, a cat’s life, or anyone’s life.
But I want you to keep this in this mind, during those times when you feel like you cannot save yourself anymore, maybe you can just walk along the street and try to look at the corners. Maybe you can spot there, a homeless four-legged furry creature. And maybe you can try to approach him/her. Who knows? Maybe he/she is waiting for you to save his/her life. And in return, maybe he/she can save your life, too. Maybe it’s about saving each other’s life.
They say that compassion is rare nowadays, but you can always be part of the rare ones.
Some of the legitimate animal welfare organizations in the Philippines:
1. Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
2. Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA)
3. Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF)
4. Philippine Animal Lover’s Society (PALS)
5. Philippine Animal Rescue Team (P.A.R.T.)
6. Help Mandaluyong Animal Shelter
7. Island Rescue Organization (IRO)
8. AWA — Iloilo
9. Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (AARRC)