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Philippine dogs march against cruelty -
and into the record books, Manila, Philippines

FILLIPINO DOG owners may have set a new Guinness world record for assembling the most number of dogs to walk for a cause.

Thousands of dogs and their owners unleashed a protest along Manila's bayside boulevard last Sunday against cruelty to canines in the Philippines, where dogs are often slaughtered and cooked as a delicacy.

The Philippine Canine Club Incorporated, (PCCI) which organized the "Dog Walk for a Cause," said the event was to allow dog lovers to protest "the senseless cruelty and indiscriminate slaughter of dogs."

More than 3,000 dogs and their owners protested in Manila, while another 4,000 showed up in at least 20 other provinces of the country, organizers said. They said the walk broke the world record set on June 20, 2004, in Tyneside England, when 5,017 dogs turned up forth Great North Dog Walk. The claim could not be independently verified.

The club claimed there was widespread cruelty to dogs in the Philippines, citing media reports of dogs kept in cramped cages and slaughtered to be sold as meat, of stray dogs being shot to death, and others being roasted alive.

Organisers said the dog walk was to also raise awareness of the need for responsible pet ownership and to control the spread of rabies.

"Why do you kill us?" read a placard strapped on the back of a Dalmatian that joined the parade along a five-kilometre (3 miles) stretch of Manila's Roxas Boulevard.

A Pomeranian-Spitz, wearing a crown of red roses, and an English bulldog wearing a read scarf around its body, were also among the dogs who strutted their stuff for the cause.

Aside from Manila, 23 other areas in the country were designated for the dog walk of five kilometres to promote dog welfare and animal rights.

PCCI president Byron San Pedro announced to the pet owners and dog lovers who gathered around the stage at Plaza Rajah Soliman in Malate that the march had exceeded expectations on every front.

"We passed the two margin requirements. Not only did we reach 7,469 dogs nationwide, but we also met the required distance of five kilometres," San Pedro told a leading Manila newspaper.

PCCI officials said they were surprised by the turnout in Manila where they expected only 1,000 dogs. Baguio City, on the other hand, had the least number with 37.

Aries Jimenez, officer-in-charge of the Manila Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office, said they were overwhelmed by the turnout and that they would collaborate again with PCCI next year for another dog day activity.

The event was eight months in the making. In order to qualify for the Guinness Book of Records, San Pedro said they would still have to submit their documentation evidence such as the number of dog registrants, pictures and actual video footage.

But he admitted the Guinness entry is only incidental and their main focus was to create animal awareness in a country famed for dog meat and dog fights.

The pet dogs accompanied by their masters assembled at Plaza Rajah Soliman in front of the Malate Church and at 6:30 a.m. began their march toward the Cultural Centre of the Philippines.

They then walked back toward the Luneta Grandstand and the Manila Hotel before heading to the finish line at Rajah Soliman.

It took them two hours to complete the walk, an they were greeted at the finish line by the PCCI with certificates of attendance.

An assortment of breeds went on promenade, ranging from Labradors and Golden Retrievers, including several Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, Belgian Malinois, Great Danes, Saint Bernard, Siberian Huskies, Dobermans, Boxers and Mastiffs to German Shepherds, Chow-chow, Schnauzers, Dalmatians, Basset Hound, Miniature Pincher, Beagles, Pugs, Chihuahuas, Poodles and several mongrels and crossbreeds.

One of the organizations that probably sent in a considerable delegation was the K-9 Unit of the National Capital Region and Special Action Force (SAF) from the Philippine National Police, which accounted for 35 bomb disposal and drug-sniffing dogs.

Police Officer 2 Gilbert Abarro from the Northern Police District said the dogs came from the canine training centre at Puting Bato in Antipolo City.

"These dogs are still in training. As part of our training subject, we have to walk the dogs daily for three to four kilometres, so today’s walk at Roxas Boulevard is not new to them," he said.

Benjie Ilaga, 47 said they were at the baywalk since early morning so that their black Labrador Kofi could participate, adding that Kofi regularly walks a kilometre each day to keep fit.

San Pedro said they anticipated cases such as heatstroke and took precautions by having 20 vets deployed to tents 500 meters apart and setting up water stations all along the baywalk. In one tent, the PCCI official said, they attended to six dogs that suffered from heatstroke, two of them with nosebleed.

The dog owners also took advantage of the free rabies vaccinations for their pets, as well as samples of dog food and tips on how to better take care of pets.

San Pedro said that next time they would make better preparations, and perhaps hold the dog walk during a less scorching month to spare their pets from the heat.

Jimenez for his part said the Manila government, a co-host of the event, plans to make the dog walk an annual affair.

The dog walk for a cause was conceptualised by the PCCI as an event to give all dog owners an opportunity to show their concern and protest the senseless cruelty and indiscriminate slaughter of dogs, to increase awareness of responsible pet ownership and the danger of rabies, and claim for the Philippines the record of staging the largest dog walk ever.

San Pedro added: "There is an international perception that the Philippines is a dog-eating nation. We want to change that. Hopefully with the magnitude of this event we would be known as a dog-loving nation."