A recent news item about the murder of domestic cats in Dasmarinas Village in Makati brought sadness and much trepidation to our cat-loving household. With the exception of myself, everyone in the house is enamored of cats, tolerating even the strays and vicious toms infesting our subdivision. “What if it happens to us?”, my daughters must have thought, as they hugged our two pampered felines.
It seems that a week or so before Christmas, a mass murderer (possibly murderers) of cats sneaked into a private cat shelter in swanky Dasmarinas Village and shot at 29 cats and kittens up for adoption as they meowed and cried piteously in their cages. Fifteen died while the rest survived through timely medical intervention. The owner of the cat shelter, the animal welfare organization Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) Philippines, has asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the killings. These are clearly multiple crimes under Philippine law, as Republic Act 8485, otherwise known as the Animal Welfare Act of 1998, makes it unlawful for any person to torture or kill a wild or domestic animal (with the notable exception of roosters who are routinely allowed to kill, mangle and main each other for the amusement of aficionados) or neglect to provide care, sustenance or shelter to them. So far, no suspects have been identified, much less arrested, causing fear and loathing to spread in this upscale gated community, where wealthy Filipinos and many members of the diplomatic community live. As reported by the Inquirer:
“An animal welfare group has asked the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the slaughter of 29 kittens and cats which occurred a week before Christmas in an upscale village in Makati City.
In a letter sent on Dec. 26, 2007 to NBI director Nestor M. Mantaring, Cu Unjieng wrote: “On Dec. 16, an unidentified individual, using an air gun with lead pellets, shot 29 kittens and cats in two holding cages at the back of the gym of the DasmariÃ±as Village Association along Calumpang Street.”
The cats were all under 6-months-old, well-cared for and were not disturbing anyone. They were up for adoption and under the care of CARA which has been helping the DasmariÃ±as Village Association address its stray cat population problem through a program called Catch, Neuter and Release. “The program is four years old but this is the first time the cats were harmed,” Cu Unjieng told the Inquirer last week.
Recalling the brutal killing, she said: “Early Sunday morning, (Dec. 16), a security guard called us at home and told us what happened. We immediately went to the holding area and we saw blood splattered on the cages and on the walls. The cats were either dead or dying. It was a horrible sight! We called our vet, Dr. Nielsen Donato of Vets in Practice and he came quickly. But he was only able to save 15 cats.”
In her letter to the NBI, Cu Unjieng wrote: “After the carnage, three cats died from head wounds, 11 were seriously injured and euthanized by our veterinarian, eight underwent surgery to remove embedded pellets and seven were grazed by pellets.”
The village security team investigated the incident but found no witnesses who saw or heard any shots fired that night. They have no leads as to the identity of the cat killers.
“Which is why I am appealing to the NBI to conduct its own investigation to expose the owner and user of the air gun. The expertise of the NBI is crucial at this point,” Cu Unjieng said in her letter. “There is a person living in this gated village who is dangerous. If he can kill helpless cats in the holding area near the park, he may start shooting at children who are playing in the park.
Victoria P. Celdran, president of the DasmariÃ±as Village Association, sent a circular on Dec. 19 to residents asking for information leading to the identification of the owner and user of the air gun. “He may be in our midst. If he can kill helpless cats at the back of the gym, near our park, he may start shooting at humans later with a gun other than that which uses compressed air and pellets,” she wrote in the circular.
“We are very, very upset. The kittens were in cages!” Celdran told the Inquirer. “The person who did this must have emotional problems. First he shoots cats, then what–children? We also want to stress that Dasma is not a practice ground for air guns.”
Celdran said they would not stop the investigations until the culprit is caught. “The village association will file a case against him. He committed a crime under the Animal Welfare Act and he could go to jail.”
CARA is also working with the Forbes Park community, the Manila Golf & Country Club and soon, the Bel-Air Village Association in dealing with their stray cat population problem.
Many communities, both here and abroad, have adopted the catch, neuter and release program, Cu Unjieng said. Apart from avoiding unwanted kittens by “fixing” these animals, other benefits are less cat fights and mating calls and free and efficient rodent control, she added.”
The NBI is still investigating what has come to be known as the Dasmarinas Cat Christmas (season) Carnage.
A short while later, there was some payback from the cat world, of a sort, when a 4-year old Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped from her pen adjoining the lions in the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas day and attacked 3 visitors, killing one. Tatiana perished in a hail of bullets as responding police used deadly force in putting down the aggressive tigress. It was reported in the New York Times that sympathies were equally divided between the 3 victims and the tiger, who was a popular attraction at the zoo. It appears that, per an eyewitness report, at least two of the victims were taunting the lions a short time before the tiger leapt out of its open-air grotto, which was surrounded by a moat and a concrete wall about 12 and a half feet tall. Police later found a vodka bottle inside the victims’ car, lending credence to the speculation that they were drunk and rowdy outside the big cats’ cages just before the attack.
Actually, it would seem that the zoo-goers’ grief were more for Tatiana than the teen-age victims. At the zoo’s front gate, visitors have fashioned a small memorial to Tatiana, with flowers, stuffed animals and a golden scarf that reads “RIP Tati.” Two animal rights groups also planned a vigil for the tiger and Mr. Sousa (the human fatality), to commemorate “the two young victims who died on Christmas Day at the San Francisco Zoo.”
“This whole thing has just been horrible,” said Ilona Montoya of San Bruno, celebrating her 60th birthday at the zoo. “It’s horrible, that poor tiger. I mean, I feel for the poor kid who got killed, but he had to do something to that tiger to get her that angry.”
There was no shrine or memorial for the human victims, whose families, predictably, plan to sue the Zoo. This is what happens when cats and people collide.