DOZENS of pet lovers took their dogs, cats and rabbits to a Roman Catholic shrine on Saturday for a rare religious ceremony to bless the pets in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of animals. A priest sprinkled holy water on pets after the Mass. Saint Francis of Assisi’s feast day is on Monday, but the practice of having pets blessed in churches is usually observed on the first weekend of October. Priests expect more pets to be taken to churches to be blessed on Sunday.
The focus on pets coincided with an order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources reminding owners of exotic animals to register their pets in accordance with a three-year-old law on ownership and trade of wildlife.
The environment department, which issued the directive on Thursday, called on owner of exotic pets to register their pets with the department on October 11 until December 9. Failure to comply with the directive could result in the confiscation of the animals and a prison term for uncooperative pet owners.
“The 60-day registration period is an amnesty period given to owners of wildlife animals under a law regulating ownership and trade of these exotic pets,” said Environment Secretary Michael Defensor.
The registration was part of the government’s effort to keep a record of wildlife species in the care of private individuals or business organizations, he said. The system covers both exotic and indigenous animals, listed as endangered or not.
In July 2001 President Arroyo signed the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act into law to restrict movement, ownership and trade of wildlife pets like snakes, lizards, turtles, monkeys, birds and crocodiles.
Many animals are kept in private zoos and in homes.