Animal rights groups bring food, aid to abandoned animals near Taal

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Animal rights organizations are providing food and aid for animals such as dogs, cats and cows who were left behind in evacuated areas following the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — Animal rights organizations are providing food and aid for animals such as dogs, cats and cows who were left behind in evacuated areas following the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Tuesday its volunteers have been on the ground in the evacuation zone to provide food and basic veterinary care to the abandoned animals. The group also urged people to donate telescopes (to search for signs of life on the island), dog and cat food, face masks and leashes and collars.

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society together with the International Fund for Animal Welfare also assessed the situation and led relief operations at the evacuation zone. The groups' disaster team found abandoned pet dogs, cows and other livestock who were tired, thirsty and hungry. PAWS also called for donations in the form of cow feed, chicken feed, dog food, cat food, bottles of water and pet bowls.

During her visit to evacuation centers in Batangas, Vice President Leni Robredo said some evacuees insist on going back to their homes to feed the pets they left behind. Robredo said she asked Vice Governor Mark Leviste and other officials in a meeting to consider putting up an evacuation center for animals.

"Maraming medyo matitigas ang ulo, bumabalik-balik kahit bawal kasi may mga hayop na naiwan so sinuggest ko din kina [Vice Governor] na baka iconsider 'yung evacuation center for mga hayop," she told reporters.

[Translation: A lot of evacuees have been stubborn and kept going back and forth (to their homes) even though it is not allowed, because there were pets that they left behind so I also suggested to the Vice Governor if they could consider an evacuation center for animals.]

PETA Asia Campaigner Jana Sevilla said the law should include a provision requiring animals to be included in evacuation plans. The Animal Welfare Act should also punish pet-owners for abandoning their pets in times of crises, she added. 

"We have to take them, we can't leave them behind. They rely [on us for] their safety, their entire lives [they are dependent] on us. We can't abandon them in times like this. If you can't do that, then you should not have any companion animals," she told CNN Philippines' On the Record.

Netizens have been showing concern for the animals on the island who were not evacuated, including the horses who frequently escort tourists. Several photos and videos have circulated online, revealing animals near the volcano, some dead while others alive but are now covered in ash.

Taal Volcano started rumbling and belching plumes of ash on Sunday in a stream-driven eruption that sent ash falling to provinces and areas as far north as Quezon City. The volcano has since been spewing less ash but The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology kept the alert for Taal to level 4 which means a "hazardous eruption" is possible within days or hours.

PETA said its team has not been able to enter the area immediately surrounding the volcano due to the warning of a possible eruption.

However, a resident of Barangay Calawit in Balete went to his hometown early Monday morning to check on the situation in the area, only to find that his pigs, cows and horses have died after the heavy ashfall. Balete was one of the towns where authorities conducted a forced evacuation for residents on Sunday.

The Office of Civil Defense said animals will be brought to safe places after everyone has been evacuated. However, it said it cannot say for now when animal evacuation will actually begin.

The agency's Assistant Secretary Casiano Monilla said private groups are free to conduct their own rescue efforts but he advised them to check with local disaster officials first before entering evacuation areas.

"Sometimes kung safe naman, why not? But it would be the best decision noong mga nandoon, na magcheck in sila doon. Hindi pwede na papasok ka na parang sa inyo lang, because 'pag may nangyari po, hindi natin kaagad marereactan 'yan," said Monilla.

[Translation: Sometimes, if it's safe, then why not? But it would be the best decision for the people there to register (with officials). They cannot just enter as if it's their place, because if something happens, we cannot react immediately.]

CNN Philippines' Senior Correspondent Ina Andolong contributed to this report.