EDITORIAL- Animal rescue
Despite warnings that the worst is yet to come, authorities are having a hard time preventing people from returning to their homes in the areas that have borne the brunt of Taal Volcano’s fury.
One of the common reasons cited by those returning is the need to get their pets or check on their livestock. The animals were left behind in the rush to evacuate after Taal’s explosion on Sunday. People have returned even to the volcano island itself, to rescue horses and other animals.
The government itself should be conducting the animal rescue instead of allowing them to be left to die. For animal lovers, the images are wrenching: dead horses; dogs left behind in empty houses; birds so weighed down by ash they are unable to fly.
People without a soft spot for animals may not understand the special bond between humans and their pets. But even those who are not animal lovers may grasp the importance of livestock to their owners, for whom the animals provide the principal means of livelihood.
And they may grasp why people will risk their lives and defy warnings about continuing volcanic restiveness to return to their abandoned homes and rescue animals. As the volcano simmered down on Tuesday, owners of the horses rented out to tourists began returning to the volcano island. They loaded the famished, skittish horses onto boats and sailed across the lake to safety. The rescue operations continued until yesterday.
In other affected areas, owners of animals and even strangers passing through also rescued beasts they found along the way: dogs still tied to gates, cows, water buffaloes, hogs, goats, chickens and ducks.
In other countries, governments recognize the importance of animals to humans and have designed emergency shelters as well as evacuation centers that can accommodate pets and livestock during disasters. The availability of such shelters can speed up human evacuation; one of the reasons for the reluctance of people to leave their homes even when danger approaches is the thought that they can’t take their pets and livestock with them.
Allowing evacuees to take their animals with them can also ease the problem of feeding people during emergencies. Backyard hog and poultry raisers contribute a significant amount to local food supplies. Taal’s unrest should pave the way for an attitude change on the treatment of animals during disasters.