See an animal in distress on the street? Here’s how to help.

Text by Rosa Fontelera Young

The romantic notion of riding around a bustling city in a kalesa has not waned. This is made plain by the fact that these colorful modes of transportation continue to ferry both tourists and locals to and from various picturesque destinations within the city of Manila.

What isn’t so romantic is the fact that more often than not, the horses pulling these kalesas are literally work horses: animals who need to ply the streets successfully so their kutseros will continue to view them as valuable. The other thing that’s not so romantic about them? Their kutseros might not even know how to properly care for them, only that they must be fed, watered, then pushed to canter around the city streets to earn money for their drivers first and second for their keep.

Bearing Witness

In a period when it’s so easy to make anything public and even go viral just by posting on social media, more often than not, what we see are those who constantly post and share pleas for someone to help a poor animal they saw somewhere. Responses would usually range from “I hope someone helps!” to instructions on how to reach welfare organizations.

Rarely do we see stories of people offering immediate assistance, and this is why such stories are so remarkable.

On an afternoon in December 2015, a Facebook user by the name Bean Caldoza shared the image of a horse lying on the ground—while still harnessed to a kalesa. The photograph was accompanied by this text (reproduced as is):

“Saw this on my way to the parking lot. The horse couldn’t get up and was crying, at first i thought he was dead. We tried to find the kutsero but he was nowhere. People tried to lift him, but couldn’t. Clearly the horse is stressed. I called 117 for someone to help. After 15minutes or so and a lot of people trying to help, the kutsero comes releases the horse and makes him stand up. Still no 117 came. Who do you call when you see things like these? Wawa naman yung kabayo!”

Who Do You Call?

As stated on the Philippine Animal Welfare Society or PAWS website FAQ:

“We urge good Samaritans to always do something at their level even by just coordinating and initially getting the animal out of harm’s way…” and what Bean witnessed happening was very much in line with this guideline with people simultaneously checking on the horse, looking for the kutsero, and Bean calling for further assistance from Patrol 117.

“It was the first time I saw a horse lying down like that struggling to get up on its own while still strapped to a calesa.”

It was comforting to hear that witnesses didn’t just stand around pointing fingers and waiting. “The first ones [to help] were the tambays in the carinderia, then there was this guy in a motorcycle who
happened to pass by, he got out of his bike and tried to help. After that, more people were trying to help, from what I recall about six or so trying to lift the horse at first. When that wasn’t effective, people started to lift the horse while others were trying to use the calesa as leverage. […] People were already saying to release the horse from its [reins].”

She was unsure if any of the people who approached the horse gave any kind of food or water before the kutsero arrived, but there is hope that these stories will ultimately end well because people have come to the point of trying to do something. Perhaps it’s the season, perhaps people are just becoming more and more aware of their own ability and desire to help.

What Else Can Be Done?

All too often in animal welfare do we hear people asking for help when they are already in a position to act. Perhaps they feel ill-equipped to help, have no idea what they can do, or at worst, believe that it is the responsibility of those who consider themselves animal welfare advocates.

Bean has mentioned that she sees the kalesas on a daily basis, with the “owners leaving their horses under the hot sun in the middle of the day in the same spot” which is an area “where a lot of tourists visit.” On one hand, it could be the most convenient place for the kutseros to safely leave their horse and kalesa while they take a quick break or find tourists to hire themselves out to.

Casual conversation with these kutseros can sometimes achieve results. Some welfare advocates and volunteers find they get better reception to their suggestions through casual conversation because the person or persons they are speaking with do not feel like they are being admonished or criticized.

On a larger scale, concerned citizens can bring the need for humane education and even veterinary assistance to the local government. The kalesa rides, after all, can be considered part of the tourist attractions in the area. If a sponsorship can be obtained, a request for another outreach program such as the 2010-2011 “Love Ko, Kabayo Ko!” programme by the Animal Kingdom Foundation, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, and Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) Welfare Philippines might even be possible.

Many people are quick to react and share and call the perceived offender insulting names–but so few are actually willing to take action and help the beleaguered animal. This is what is needed; a thousand Facebook shares and likes are useless to an animal that is suffering or dying. Help out if you’re on the scene; if not, try to connect those who are trying to help the animal with the proper authorities, with a kind veterinarian, or other people who can actually do something for the animal. Or you can donate to the rescuer if s/he is properly accredited and/or is someone you can trust to use the money to help the animal. That’s why this story is so valuable: it’s an entire group of people banding together to help an animal.

Further information on what individuals can do to help an animal in need can be found through the following links:
• Animal Kingdom Foundation, Inc. – https://animalkingdomfoundation.wordpress.com/how-you-can-help/
• CARA (Compassion And Responsibility for Animals) Welfare Philippines – http://www.caraphil.org/
• Island Rescue Organization – https://www.facebook.com/IslandRescueOrganization/
• Philippine Animal Rescue Team – http://www.philanimalrescue.org/get-involved.html
• Philippine Animal Welfare Society FAQ – http://www.paws.org.ph/faqs.html

This appeared as “Lending a Hand” in Animal Scene’s February 2016 issue.