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Press Release - Opening statement of Sen. Grace Poe

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat! Madam Chairperson, I would like to personally thank you for scheduling a hearing on the topic of animal welfare. Alam nyo si Senator Cynthia, napakalawak ng kanyang binabantayan - ang sektor ng agrikultura, and as you know this is a very crucial concern for our country, so I thank her for the time that she has allotted, especially for animal welfare. There are two advocacies closest to my heart - the welfare of children and the welfare of animals - parehong hindi botante pero napakahalaga sa atin.

Despite animals' worth and value to human society, many animals are neglected, deliberately abandoned, starved to death in animal pounds, or fall victim to animal cruelty. On the other hand, some irresponsible pet owners have permitted their unvaccinated pets to cause nuisance, fear, or harm to their communities.

One of the issues that has been the cause and effect of this maltreatment is the overpopulation of homeless animals. According to the Mars Petcare Pet Homelessness Project report, there are a total of 13.11 million stray cats and dogs in the Philippines today.

Because strays lack proper care or vaccinations, rabies is most common in countries where stray dogs are present in large numbers. The Philippines is, in fact, ranked 6th among countries with the highest rabies incidence in the world.

Just last month, Jamaica Star Seraspe, a 13-year-old girl from Tondo died after contracting rabies from a dog bite she got months before. This could have been prevented.

An important question to ask therefore, is whether we have sufficient animal welfare programs in place and whether our communities--especially in rural areas--have adequate access to quality veterinary healthcare services.

On the national level, the responsibility of ensuring animal welfare falls under the purview of the Bureau of Animal Industry or BAI, a staff bureau of the Department of Agriculture. However, we know this is underfunded and understaffed.

Under Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code, the delivery of veterinary services to the communities has been devolved to LGUs. However, the Local Government Code mandates that only provinces and cities should