Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

BAI must have an annual budget for rabies vaccines

May 18, 2024, 1:09 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


At the rate the population of dogs– initially for pets until their owners abandon them once they multiply so fast, and they eventually become strays on the roads– there must be an increasing budget for vaccination against rabies and tetanus each year.

It did not have to take Senator Grace Poe to urge the Bureau of Animal Industry to allot P10 million budget for vaccines against rabies. It must come naturally, if we are to prevent a scourge like rabies and other diseases.

BAI must have clockwise calculations of the rate of population growth of stray dogs and cats in the streets and thus base its request for increasing budget on this. And not only that even the local government units must be providing a regular budget to barangays for rabies vaccines and tetanus shots.

I had five sessions of anti rabies and anti tetanus shots this year when a stray (feral) cat bit me on both legs as I was watching over my Shi Tzu dog during her walk. She was smelling rows of shrubs in the garden within our village, not knowing that a kitten was hiding behind those shrubs.

The mother cat, from behind, attacked me as I was protecting my pet from being bitten or scratched and in the process, I bled profusely on my way– a few steps home.

I immediately washed my bleeding legs (they were both bleeding from the attack) but they would not stop so I tied them with whatever discardable clothes I had and immediately ran to the ABC (Animal Bite Center) clinic near our village.

God, I had to spend each time in those five sessions– regardless of my Senior Citizen card– I still dished out a fortune from my dwindling funds. From hereon, I am so wary of getting near shrubs and vines, from parks cars (as dogs and cats usually stay underneath to protect themselves from sun and rain).

But how about those poor children in far-flung provinces who get bitten but can’t afford to get those shots. Where do they go? In the barangay health centers where there is usually no stock, or in the provincial or municipal health offices, which again has very limited stocks that are designed for outreach information campaigns (in compliance with the requirements of the Department of Interior and Local Government)? The BAI– as the overseer of animal industry– must be the first line of defense.

An article by said Sen. Poe was concerned about the uptick in rabies cases, with one Filipino dying of the disease daily in 2023, just imagine that!

“Because strays lack proper care or vaccinations, rabies is most common in the country, where stray dogs and cats are present in large numbers,” Poe explained.

She said the Philippines is ranked sixth among countries with the highest rabies incidence in the world, she said while conducting the hearing that was to tackle bills amending the Animal Welfare Act and creating a separate Animal Welfare Bureau under the DA. (The reason for this is in recent years, BAI had been more preoccupied about issuing licenses and permits to import all types of meats for local canneries and for big membership retail outlets).

Poe cited the report of Mars Petcare Pet Homelessness Project that pointed out that there are 13.1 million stray cats and dogs in the Philippines, and their population rise can be stopped through castration and spaying, which costs a lot.

Though some barangays catch the strays, they do not have the funds and facilities to properly care for them, so they euthanize the dogs and cats after four days, if no owner claims them. But this is no way to treat God’s creature!

Poe said there is a need to create a separate bureau because the BAI – tasked to implement the Animal Welfare law – is limited to fulfill its mandate. I agree with this completely.

“The responsibility of ensuring animal welfare falls under the purview of the BAI, a staff bureau of the Department of Agriculture. However, we know this is underfunded and understaffed,” Poe said. My take on this is THERE IS NO MONEY TO BE MADE HERE.

At the hearing, BAI veterinarian Oscar Cabanayan said the bureau only has P10 million to inoculate animals with anti-rabies vaccines.

Poe hinted that even government agencies are confused about their tasks to safeguard animal rights. She urged the bureau to fast track its anti-rabies program.“Animal welfare is human welfare. If you look historically in all the annual reports of the BAI, not once have they reported about animal welfare, which means it is not a focus or priority,” said Marina Rosa Ortiz, cofounder of Biyaya Animal Center.

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