“It’s like I’m living under martial law. I’m always scared.”
“Jenny” is actually too young to have experienced life during the Marcos dictatorship, but she finds it a fitting metaphor for the way she and her neighbors in Marikina City have been protecting their cherished companions—their dogs.
The 19-year-old resident has been hiding two dogs inside her house in a resettlement area in Barangay (village) Malanday, where it is considered illegal under a local law to own pets.
Local government officials maintain that the ban, enforced under Ordinance No. 156, only makes sure that animals will not end up in areas, like relocation sites, where their needs may not be fully met. The city veterinarian, for example, said it was also intended to protect residents from diseases and the animals from maltreatment.
But animal welfare advocates have assailed the 1996 measure for being discriminatory against the poor who, they said, can be responsible pet owners.
Jenny said “men in white” from City Hall had been “aggressive” in rounding up pets in the barangay, prompting residents like her to hide their pets.
She had to do it for the sake of her dear Che-Che and Champ.
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes: The animals (kept in the pound) are dying,” she said as she gazed at her two dogs then lying quietly on the floor.
Jenny had a third dog, Cha-cha, which was seized by City Hall workers and placed in the animal shelter in Barangay Concepcion on March 22. Cha-cha got caught after slipping through the gate which had been left open by her house guests that day.
“I heard people shouting, ‘Ay, Cha-cha! Cha-cha!’ and I saw four men catch her with a noose at the end of a rod. The dog was crying,” said “Julia,” Jenny’s sister.
Jenny said she had since visited Cha-cha in the shelter about 10 times. The once playful dog, she said, had become thinner, sad and passive in its cage.
She repeatedly tried to reclaim Cha-cha but the people manning the shelter always cited the ordinance.
“It’s so unfair. Do they know how we take care of Cha-cha? Just because we live in a depressed area doesn’t mean we are irresponsible,” she explained.
Another Malanday resident who identified himself only as Ruben said he had also been hiding four dogs and a cat inside his house. “I’d rather die first before they take my pets away from me,” he said. His pets are his source of “good luck,” added Ruben, a tricycle operator.
He maintained that he had never been remiss in his responsibilities as a pet owner. He always bought them pet food and had the dogs vaccinated with antirabies shots. “So tell me: Am I irresponsible?” he asked.
Dr. Manuel Carlos, head of the City Veterinary Office in charge of implementing the ordinance, acknowledged that complaints had been raised against the ban.
“I hope they understand. Never mind if some of them get mad at me, just as long as the majority (believe it’s a good law),” he said.
He said the law could never be considered “antipoor” since its only intent was to protect the residents in resettlement areas from diseases and the pets from possible cruelty.
Local authorities had already given the residents ample time to have their pets transferred to other places, he said.
Carlos also denied that animals at the shelter were being neglected. “There are two caretakers there. Food is cooked for the animals. Anybody can check this.”