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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Dog Person for the Month of June: Nena Hernandez

I have been out of the blogosphere for 2 weeks and now I am back. I thank Facebook and Gmail, because without them this feature will not be possible. Ms. Nena Hernandez is located in Cebu and I am in Manila, but I was able to interview her using Gmail, and I grabbed some of the pictures from her Facebook account. I am actually excited to write something about her on my blog, because I want the world to know her.
Dog Person for the Month of June: Nena Hernandez.. photo source: Em Gamboa

Here is the transcript of my interview with Nena Hernandez. I decided to just copy paste the email, just to make sure that no single word will be change :)

Kristine: How long have you been a dog lover? How many dogs did you have in your childhood?

Nena: I was born an animal lover. I always loved animals and had my first dogs if I recall since I was 9 years old. I recall having four at the most. I always had dogs during my childhood. Also had a turtle found after a flood and had chickens in our back yard saved from the cook slaughtering it. :-)

Nena's Mom with Barqs
Kristine: Why did you decide to put up IRO? What are the challenges that you are facing as a shelter owner? Do you accept abandoned dogs at IRO?

I arrived in Dec 2009 from the U.S. with pit bull rescue experience since 2006. I knew that if there was none to be involved with in Cebu, there was a need to start one. Together with other animal lovers like Enzo Nable, Biggie Tantuico, Rigel Sanchez, and Carol Mendez, IRO was launched. 

The main challenges in having a rescue center and sanctuary (please refer to it that way as we don't consider it a shelter) is always funding. It takes money to run two centers: one for the Aspins in Danao, Cebu, and the other for the Cavite Pit Bulls in a secret mountain location in Cebu City. Feed, Medical Care, enhancing programs, salaries for caretakers take money so that is always our challenge.

Yes, we have accepted abandoned cats and dogs but IRO believes that it is the responsibility of an animal control government agency to handle the abandoned animals first and rescues like IRO can come in and rescue those that need rescue. In Cebu City, there is a dog pound that people can go, and should go, to adopt dogs. IRO is here to serve all of Cebu and therefore if there is no animal control system like they have in Cebu City than we come in. In other situations, we have answered the call of people in the community to help out if the animal control system can't respond or if there is none to respond. It is on a case by case basis. What is important though is that animal welfare and rescue takes "a whole village." IRO promotes the African philosophy that "it takes a village" to respond to help the animals in our communities. One rescue organization like IRO in Cebu can't be the only one responsible. It takes the whole community of dog/cat/animal lovers to help out. It is laying the seeds for a paradigm shift where all living beings are cared for and humanely treated.
Barqs and Nena's grandchild Maleaha Champion
Kristine: Why do you favor the bully breed? Do you have a favorite dog?
Nena:  I don't have a favorite breed of dog, however, I credit the pit bulls for enlightening me to the conditions of the breed and of dogs in general. It is because of pit bulls that I am in rescue. I am a U.S. licensed attorney and was practicing immigration law in California when the conditions of the pit bulls introduced me to the rescue world. The pit bulls if we look world wide are the most persecuted breed who have been used for blood sport (dog fighting), subjected to breed discrimination, and breed specific legislation where they are banned. Many pit bulls have been killed not because they merited it  but merely because of their breed. In the U.S. where my history in rescue began, the majority of dogs killed whether in shelters or due to BSL are pit bulls. Additionally, it was when my first pit bull Barqs joined our family. He taught me, then later my female pit bull adopted from a shelter, Chimal, what this breed is like. So loving, so loyal, so wanting to please us humans.

Nena with Chimal
Kristine: What are your views about euthanasia of healthy dogs?
Nena:  I do not call it "euthanasia" when the dog is healthy. It is called murder to me or killing a dog. I adhere to the literal definition of euthanasia which contains two elements to the definition: mercy killing (1st element) of an animal to (2) relieve the animal of any severe pain or suffering or if the animal is a danger to society and nothing can be done to help this animal.
Barqs, Chimal and Derrick
 Kistine: What are your views about consumption of dog meat?

Nena: Of course am disgusted with the consumption of dog meat. However, I am also a vegetarian and do not consume any animal. So to me, consumption of dog meat or any other animal meat is something I personally do not adhere to. But since I accept the fact that people will continue to consume meat whether land or sea animal, together with IRO we want to focus on humane consumption wherein the animal should be humanely slaughtered where there is not one iota of suffering. Now when it comes to whether one should humanely consume a dog or even a cat I consider them companion animals traditionally and it is equal to me eating my family or in the case of working animals, eating one's "worker/employee" when they have maximized their use. Can't do it and it breaks my heart when I hear them slaughtered, something that is not uncommon here in the Philippines.

Barqs with baby Maleaha and Davy
Kristine: Your views on gas chambers?

Nena:  I think the law is clear as the "tambucho" "gas chambers" is illegal and inhumane. So I abhor it and push for the continued recognition that it is illegal and inhumane.

Kristine: Your views on breeding dogs for money?

Nena:  Breeding for money? I have close friends, supporters of IRO, who are professional breeders and when you hear them talk, it is not really motivated by money but love of the breed. Now, I know this is a controversial issue, because why buy when there is so many to adopt. I still promote that however since breeding is something that will happen I want to work closely with the different dog clubs to emphasize professional breeding rather than puppy mills or back yard breeders. And of course, as we work with the professional breeders, to emphasize not to cull any imperfect dogs, and to make them available for adoption. You will be surprised. I have a friend of mine who is a professional breeder who actually became my friend because he sought an animal rescuer to adopt one of his puppies because he didn't want the puppy to be abused or badly treated. This person found me and now I have his puppy for no fee. Totally free. The puppy is my American Bull Dog with a pristine line and from a well know Dad, Mom, and Grand-dad. Great working/sport dog lineage. This man knew I would spay my Am Bull Dog and he was very okay with that. Such a good person.

Nena's pack
Kristine: Are you a Cesar Millan or Victoria Stillwell fan? and why?

Nena:  I am a fan of both Cesar and Victoria as well as other trainers/behaviorist out there like Jan Fennell. I don't think one is better than the other. I have learned that the type of training depends on the individual dog.

Kristine: If you have the power to change the law about animal welfare in the Philippines, what are you going to amend? and why?

Republic Act 8485, Sec 6, has to be amended to have severe penalties for abuse, abandonment, and torture. Additionally, the penalties for dog or horse fighting should be more severe than the mere 1,000 - 5,000 penalties. Especially for dog fighting, an area I know more about, the millions of pesos earned is not a deterrent for such a heinous crime. What is also a problem on how the current law is written is that those who participate, bet, or even sell their dogs to the dog fighting syndicate are not included in the current law. There has to be severe punishment with jail time included in the law.

The law also has to be backed up by the national government with more funding. There is a need to have an animal control system in all parts of the country. I know it costs money but consider reassessing our government's budget and its priorities on how to reallocate their funds. With higher penalties, there may be more funds to develop such a system.
 Kristine: What can you advice the young people of today?
Generally, the philosophy I adhered to when raising my own children, is something I read in Facebook: "Sometimes you have to do what's best for you and your life, not what's best for everybody else." I always emphasize to be YOURSELF, LOVE YOURSELF, and others will LOVE you back who appreciate your essence. Never deviate from your essence. In IRO, my advice to the members, who majority are below 30 years old, is as members of IRO your duty is in the following order: 1. Yourself  2. Your Family 3. Your job to support your Family. 4. Your animals. 5. IRO 
In the rescue community, there is the danger of spending all your time with your passion to help the animals and thereafter one may neglect themselves, their family, their jobs, or even their own animals. Eventually, this someone will burn out and subsequently leave IRO. We focus on long term sustenance and being happy in IRO doing what they can and whenever they can. 

Spanky and Lola
Kristine: What is your definition of a responsible dog guardian?

Nena: To me being a responsible dog guardian (and yes, guardian is more of an appropriate term than "owner") is provide food, shelter, discipline, and love. They are not dispensable items like the latest shoes or outfits. So animal guardianship is a life long commitment. Additionally, spay or neuter your dog if you are not a professional breeder. There are so many homeless animals and population control is critical to humanely helping them out.

Pitbulls that were rescued from an illegal dog fighting syndicate
Kristine: What would you like to say to my readers? 

Nena:  Help the rescue organizations in whatever way you can. It doesn't have to be monetary as I know life can be economically difficult. However, even one peso can add up to 1,000 pesos if you have 1,000 people donate. There are other creative ways you can help if not economically: volunteer, foster, or eventually adopt rather than buy. Most important lets be responsible Filipino citizens by reporting abuse, torture, and abandonment of animals. We have to pressure the government officials to implement the laws regarding animal welfare and not to turn away just because their are animals. It does take a village to build a future society for the future generations of Filipinos where an animal rescue organization is no longer needed. That I believe is the ultimate goal for all animal lovers.

Husky Group at IRO shelter photo by: Merrel Joy

Kristine: What can you advice to people who are planning to put up their own shelter someday?

1.  Define what your rescue center will be. Which animals do you want to help.

2.  Build community support, a base of support for the work you will do. Trust in all cat/dog/animal lovers in the community that they have the heart to help. It doesn't take a person with "animal rescuer" as their title to help animals. There are many who do it individually.

3.  Develop a fundraising fund to sustain such a center.

4.  Do what you can, one dog at a time. With so many who need help, realize that you can't help them all, but for the one or two cats/dogs/animal you helped, it makes a big difference to your life.

5.  Don't give up especially when confronted with barriers. I remember that movie where the slogan was "you build it, and they will come." I really believe in this. Have faith on the people who will join you in this endeavor.

6.  Don't build an organization centered on one individual. Make sure you have a consultative type of organization where first, second, and third line of leadership is developed. The danger of an organization built on one individual is if that one individual passes away or decides to retire or completely stop, then the organization (ultimately the animals) will suffer.
If you would like to get in touch with Tita Nena, kindly email her at  irobullybreedlover@gmail.com or like IRO's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/123743727700395/

Thank you for reading my blog :) For any queries please send me an email at akvicencio@gmail.com

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