As its one way of preparing the Ilocos Region to comply with the Amended Republic Act 8485 otherwise known as the Improved Animal Welfare Act of 1998, the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office I through its Regulatory Division conducted two batches of seminars on Proper Handling of Laboratory Animals in the conduct of Scientific Procedures and the Improved Animal Welfare Program in the Transport of Farm Animals for Slaughter at the Candon Hotel in Candon City, Ilocos Sur.
Successively held on February 25-28, 2014, the the four-day live-in seminar was participated in by the instructors of the private and public colleges and universities in the region, Animal Welfare Officers, Livestock Inspectors of the Local Government Units, Quarantine Officers as well as the livestock handlers, animal shippers and traders of the Ilocos Region.
Conducted in collaboration with the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), these seminars provided the animal stakeholders valuable information relative to the implementation of the Improved Animal Welfare Program.
The Animal Welfare Program aims to protect and promote the welfare of all animals in the country by supervising and regulating the establishment and operations of all facilities utilized for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating or training of all animals either as objects of trade or as household pets.
Of all the provisions in the Act, the cruelty to animals and the transportations of animals for slaughter were given emphasis by the resource persons who came from BAI, the Philippine Association of Laboratories for Animal Science (PALAS), Universal Laboratory and the various Animal Welfare Officers from the different regions in the country who were trained by the Australian Government on animal welfare following the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards.
According to Dr. Ma. Gracia Dizon-Flores, Chief of the Animal Welfare Division of BAI, the country is under scrutiny of the World Organization for Animal Health due to several animal welfare issues and concerns particularly on cruelty to animals being undertaken by several unlawful individuals and groups.
Among these issues and concerns mentioned by Dr. Flores include the dog fight for on-line gaming in Cavite and Laguna, illegal dog meat trade in Northern Luzon, horse fighting in North Cotabato and improper handling and care of food animals as well as non-securing of authorization from the DA-BAI on the use of animals for experiments or scientific procedures especially in medical schools/colleges and university laboratories.
To address these issues and concerns, BAI in collaboration with the private and non-government organizations have organized the Institutional Animal Care and Use or IACUC under the Animal Care and Use Program (ACUP) to ensure that protocols on animal care and use program shall be strictly implemented. This group serves as advisory body on animal care and use, handling techniques and scientific procedures to researchers and students comprised of representatives from three (3) national governments agencies, four (4) private groups and 8 non-government organizations.
The group requires any private or government entities to secure from DA-BAI an authorization to conduct scientific procedures using animals with a minimum fee of P100. In applying for the authorization, applicants should accomplish the application forms from ACUP, PALAS and IACUC aside from undergoing Animal Technician Training Program to be administered by the Animal Welfare Officers designated in all regions nationwide. The authorization is valid for 2 years and renewable for one month prior to the due date.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jhonabeth Pajarillaga, Region I's Animal Welfare Officer on her discussion on the Amended Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the transport of animals for slaughter reminded all shippers to abide with all the requirements and obligations as specified in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of AWA. As a basic requirement in transporting animals, all shippers must hold of the permit to transport together with the handler's license that could be secured from the Bureau of Animal Industry through the Licensing Unit of the Regulatory Division of DA-RFO I.
Likewise, Dr. Zaldy Olivas, the Animal Welfare Officer of Region II emphasized in his presentation the need for understanding animal behavior to facilitate handling, reduce economic losses and improves handler's safety and animal welfare. Prior to transport, Dr. Olivas requires handlers to provide the animals with the basic necessities such as food and water to keep the animals away from stress, heat stroke, bruising, exhaustion and other effects of transport.
Engr. Eduardo Gonzales, Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations of DA-RFO I reminded the participants to get acquainted and be familiarized with the implementing rules and regulations of RA 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act especially those in charge at the slaughterhouses to avoid consequent penalties. According to Dr. Ma. Gracia Dizon-Flores, Chief of the Animal Welfare Division of BAI any violators of the highest form of cruelty to animals shall be fined P250,000 and an imprisonment of 6 years and above if proven guilty