“It was almost zero-visibility, talagang risky. Pero out of desperation, itinuloy pa rin nila ang plano,” says Panaglima about their first night of rescue. Photograph from Freepik
Culture Spotlight

Taal’s abandoned animals have found their heroes in this group of pet lovers

The members of Guardians of the Fur share a common love for dogs. But this time around, they joined forces for a loftier mission—to save the animals who are victims of the recent calamity in Taal. 
Rhia Diomampo Grana | Jan 20 2020

It’s hard to imagine leaving our pets behind, amid a devastating volcanic eruption. You’ve taken care of them for so long and treated them like family, and then it turns out that at the worst of times, you can’t bring them with you because you are told the rescue vehicles can only fit humans and there’s no space for the animals in the evacuation center. You are left with no choice but to leave them in the disaster area, hoping and praying they will still be alive when you get back after the whole catastrophe is over.

Several pet owners in Batangas and other neighboring provinces posted photos of their pets on Facebook, hoping a kind soul would be able to see them and rescue their pooches. “Sa mga taga-Brgy. Banga po, baka makita nyo ang aso naming si Brownies, pakibigyan po sya ng pagkain. Nag-evacuate na po sina Mama kagabi. Humabol si Brownies hanggang Tagaytay Road, kaso di pinasakay kaya umuwi na lang,” a pet owner from Talisay, Batangas posted on her Facebook page, along with a photo of their brown Aspin.

Fear is evident in the eyes of the animals. "Nakatingin sila sa mga rescuers namin. Hindi sila lumalapit kasi natatakot,” says Panaglima, a member of Guardians of the Fur. Photograph by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

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Heartbreaking posts like these reached the members of Guardians of the Fur, a group of pet lovers mostly from the Calabarzon area. After exchanging messages with other members, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Even people from areas like Batangas that are directly affected by the calamity stepped up to the plate. “Bumuo kami ng group chat, at doon na nagsimulang magplano ng rescue sa mga naiwang pets. Naglabasan na din ang iba pang willing na tumulong,” relates Carissa Panaglima, who’s a member of the group for three years now.

Panaglima lives in faraway Liliw, Laguna, so instead of joining the rescue missions in the disaster areas, she thought it would be best to volunteer by coordinating with the rescue teams, the owners of animal shelter, and those who wish to donate for the cause.

Guardians of the Fur are coordinating with members of MMDA K9 Corps in rescuing the abandoned animals. Photograph by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

They started the rescue mission on Monday, the same day they saw the posts of pet owners on social media. They initially had difficulty looking for rescue vehicles, so it was already 8 p.m. when they left the SM Mall of Asia and midnight when they finished rescuing some of the animals in Batangas. “It was almost zero-visibility, talagang riskyPero out of desperation, kasi naawa din sila sa mga animals, itinuloy pa rin nila ang plano,” Panaglima relates.

Now on the eight day of their rescue mission, Panaglima says everything is much smoother in terms of coordination. Their Facebook group is still abuzz with updates about animals that have yet to be rescued and animals were already rescued. Members from different cities are continuously reposting information (exact locations of the animals and the contact numbers of the owners) and photos of pets that are left by their relatives and friends in their homes, while the rescuers are constantly updating about successful rescue missions. One member volunteered to collate all the data in an excel file.

Meanwhile, through the help of a well-known dog trainer Tristan Huertas and the followers of his Milo and Friends Facebook group, they were able to raise more funds for their rescued animals.

 

GOTF to the Rescue

Fear is evident in the eyes of the animals. “Yung iba, talagang hinahanap nila yung owners nila. Nakatingin sila sa mga rescuers namin. Hindi sila lumalapit kasi natatakot,” Panaglima shares their rescuers’ observation.

Some pets are obviously in need of medical attention. “May ni-rescue kaming injured na mama dog. May dalawa siyang newly born pups. Itinakbo agad sila ng team namin sa vet kasi kasi baka bumigay po yung dalawang newborn,” she says.

Veterinarians tend to rescued animals in Balete town, Batangas. Photograph by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

She says there are dogs who are shivering for reasons they are not sure of. “Hindi basta fear lang,” she observes, “kasi lumalapit sa mga rescuers, nagpapalambing, pero nanginginig. Right now, we’re still looking for vets na pwedeng pumunta sa shelter para mag-check-up ng mga animals.”

Sad to say, there were fatalities, reports Panaglima. “Right after makita siya ng mga rescuers yung isang dog, tumigil na din po ang paghinga nya. Nakakatakot, nakakaawa. Siguro dahil sa ash, nahirapan na siyang huminga, kasi he was gasping.”

Last Monday, they rescued 20 dogs, 2 bunnies, a few chickens, and cats. They brought them to a shelter in Cabuyao, Laguna. A rescuer volunteered to foster the said animals, so they left him with some funds for the animals’ needs.

As of this writing, Guardians of the Fur have already rescued 150 to 170 animals—dogs, cats, goats, ducks, and chickens. “Lahat po ay naka-document kung saang lugar namin sila nakuha,” says Panaglima. Photos of the unidentified rescued animals will be posted on their Facebook page. Owners will need to show proof they are indeed the owner of the said animals. Those who will not be claimed will be up for adoption, with proper screening.

A puppy left behind by owners crosses a fissure left by earthquakes in Agoncillo town, Batangas on January 17, 2020. Photograph by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

The Guardians of the Fur rep says they have had rescue missions in the municipalities of Talisay, Laurel, Taal, Bauan, Agoncillo, Brgy. Suplok in Tanauan City, and other areas. “Medyo malaki kasi ang Batangas. Bandang Lemery po hindi pinayagang pumasok yung team ko kasi nagbibitak na ang lupa. Medyo risky para sa mgarescuers at may mga aftershocks po. Sabi ko wag na muna, sa ibang araw na lang kung kakayaninPero right now, Talisay po yung pina-target ko, then Laurel, Suplok. Yun pa lang ang napasok sa ngayon. Sa sobrang dami ng hayop, medyo mahirap para sa amin, kasi ang sasakyan ay limited,” she admits.

They welcome donations in cash or in kind. They are currently in need medicines, dog/cat food, milk for newborn puppies. For designated drop-off points, you may coordinate with the group through their Facebook page, Guardians of the Fur.