When one has a non-human family member, it’s no surprise if there is a sense of serious concern about the maltreatment of dogs, cats, and other animals, particularly if they are within the vicinity or neighborhood. In fact, it’s no surprise if the need to act may override the “let’s not get involved” attitude, and we take it upon ourselves to rescue animals that we perceive to be in less-than-ideal circumstances, or are being outright hurt, tortured, or in danger of losing their lives.

However, before one goes off to save the day, it’s a good idea to remember the following:

No one is above the law

You’ve probably heard it before, but when it comes to doing an animal rescue, one should always consider that while you – and potentially many other people – are witnesses to animal abuse or, worse, the killing of said animals, our laws do have specific reminders, rules, and remedies in place.

Trespassing

The most obvious laws that can be violated will be the ones related to trespassing. Remember, the property of the potential offender is still theirs, and as such, is their dwelling or home; entering it by force or without consent will still qualify as trespassing, even if it is for the health and safety of an abused animal. While it’s true that there are exceptions to the law, these mostly involve medical emergencies and other similar issues that apply specifically to humans.

Property damage

In the eyes of the law, damaging property in the act of trespassing or theft makes the case worse for the criminal – even if it is in the name of rescuing an animal in danger.

Theft

Another legal issue to consider is that in the process of saving an animal from his or her cruel human, one might be guilty of theft. Yes, it is technically kidnapping if you think about it, but then again, traditional humanity concepts apply.While there may be no malice involved, the intent to take personal property of another without that person’s consent makes animal rescue a possible crime in the eyes of the law.

So, how do we rescue animals?

What we can do as concerned citizens is to report animal abusers to the proper authorities. That means that we should do the following.

Gather evidence

As much as possible, gather photo or video evidence (audio is possible, too) of the abuse. If the videos or photos can positively identify the abusers, even better. It’s also important to make sure one has a clear timeline of events, from when one started to see or hear about the abuser’s actions, to when one decided to report it to the proper authorities.

Report to authorities

Report the incidences of animal abuse to the local government unit – in this case, the barangay office at the most local – and the city hall, depending on concerns for one’s safety. It is also a good idea to contact the local police station, given that animal abuse is actionable under law.

Under no circumstances should one undertake the rescue of the animal. [I take exception in cases where certain animals aren’t protected by law yet are abused, neglected, or exploited. Let’s consider how protecting prosecuted Jews wasn’t legal under the Nazi regime, but many folks chose to rescue them, anyway. What is illegal isn’t necessarily immoral, and what we do under circumstances of injustice tells us what kind of people we choose to be. We just have to be aware of the consequences of our actions and act accordingly. –Ed.]

What about your own safety?

Now, this may be something that hasn’t crossed your mind, but one thing about animal abusers is that some of them may not have issues with hurting people as well. When you see instances of animal abuse, do consider the following:

1. Avoid being confrontational – This should be self-explanatory. If an abuser can abuse a non-human, then for sure, abusing a human may not be a problem to them, too.

2. Consider your own safety – If you live near the abuser or interact with friends or family of the abuser, you should immediately make sure that you are not left alone. Even if the abuser or their friends look harmless, rest assured, that may not be the case at all.

3. Consider whom you will report to – Given Philippine culture’s knack for having communities where everyone knows everyone else, it’s a good idea to consider which authority you will report to first, particularly if you know that the abuser may have influence in local government, even if it is only at the barangay level. Remember, be brave, but also be careful.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s February 2020 issue.

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– To the rescue: 5 heroic animals who saved humans
– Heart Evangelista helps rescue animals in Taal
– DENR plans to set up wildlife rescue centers near Taal