After Englishman Charles Leslie Wartenberg learned that some ethnic groups in the Philippines eat dogs, he organized a small group of Filipinos in the late 1990s to rescue dogs from slaughter. He formally applied for a government registration of Animal Kingdom Foundation, Inc. (AKF) in the year 2002. Since then, AKF has rescued and rehomed thousands of once slaughter-bound dogs, rehabilitating them in a rescue center built through Charles’ fundraising efforts. Presently, the rescue shelter in Capas, Tarlac, north of Manila, houses 70 dogs with an ongoing treatment and rehoming program.
Charles died on December 18, 2016 in his home at Edenbridge, Kent, England.
Charles acted on his dream of building a no-kill shelter for the once slaughter-bound dogs that his team rescues from the dog traders. AKF’s rescue and rehabilitation center is touted to be the biggest rescued dog shelter in the Philippines.
He was the leading proponent of a Bureau of Animal Industry, Philippine National Police and AKF partnership, which was forged in Camp Crame by the Directorate for Operation in 2007. The partnership officially declared AKF as the BAI and PNP’s NGO partner in implementing the animal welfare law, especially with regard to the rescue of slaughter-bound dogs.
Here are some significant results that Charles and AKF have accomplished in their desire to put an end to the illegal dog meat trade in the Philippines:
- Built a “no-kill” rescue and rehabilitation center for once slaughter-bound dogs.
- Lead the creation of a tripartite agreement with the BAI and PNP through a Letter of Instruction (LOI / 07), making AKF a partner in implementing animal welfare laws, enabling the conduct of numerous raids and rescue operations as well as the arrest of dog meat traders and various animal welfare law violators.
- Engaged the city pound administrators of Mandaluyong, Manila and Angeles, Pampanga in rehabilitating and rehoming rounded up dogs. At least 70 dogs have been rehabilitated, and 60 of them have been rehomed.
- Initiated and forged a partnership with the DSWD to include responsible pet ownership, animal welfare education, and bite prevention in the seminars and talks extended to poor communities in Baguio and La Trinidad in Benguet, where dog eating and killing is prevalent.
- Pushed for the inclusion of animal welfare-related education programs in elementary schools in Baguio City and La Trinidad in Benguet as well as the CALABARZON region south of Manila, where dogs and dog meat are being sourced.
- Sourced out funds for the purchase of a DNA testing machine to aid the National Meat Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture in identifying dog meat seized from illegal restaurants, and forged an agreement with the NMIS for dog meat testing.
- Spearheaded the organization of a conference that lead to the signing of a National Plan of Action to eliminate the dog meat trade. This important government document recognizes the problem of the dog meat trade in the Philippines and seeks to address the issues it raises.
By spearheading the fight against the dog meat trade, Charles and AKF reduced the number of dog traders in the south of Manila to just a single family. There were four known families involved in the trade when Charles started this campaign in the early 2000s.
According to AKF’s 2017 report to the Philippine National Police, their partnership carried out more than a hundred raids against the dog traders. At least four thousand dogs (including more than a thousand carcasses) were recovered, and the surviving animals rescued.
Over the span of fourteen years, at least a hundred persons involved in the dog meat trade have been brought to court by AKF. Some of the cases are still ongoing, while the rest have been either won and archived or dismissed.
Says Elly Maynard, president and founder of the Sirius Global Animal Organisation,
I met Charles approximately 15 years ago when he came to New Zealand. He had made a request to Dianne Howarth, who was Editor of Animals Voice, the magazine produced by the SPCA in Auckland, New Zealand. Charles came to Tauranga and stayed with my husband and I, and that was the start of a unique friendship.
A few years after this meeting, I was invited to travel to the Philippines to talk to members of the Philippine Government and to see the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF) facilities in Capas, Tulac. Every two years thereafter, I returned and always stayed at the AKF facilities, and became involved in major raids against illegal dog meat traders. A number of dogs were rescued, and Charles and his people were instrumental in having strict laws put in place prosecuting those who killed dogs for human consumption. While many of the dog meat traders went underground, Charles and his team of undercover investigators were able to rescue many dogs and obtain prosecutions. These raids were not without risk and were in fact extremely dangerous.
Animal welfare in the Philippines owes so much to Charles and his team, and especially Heidi Marquez who is one of two solicitors fighting for animal welfare. All the people involved at the AKF facilities including the vets, Greg Quimpo, the Centre Manager and all the workers held Charles in the highest regard. He will be sorely missed, but his work continues thanks to the efforts of Greg and Heidi. The AKF facilities have now been opened to tourists, so is indeed a wonderful destination to see animal welfare in action and to interact with the rescued animals.
Just before Charles passed away, he founded AKF-UK as an affiliate of AKF-Philippines. Despite his demise, AKF continues his legacy for the benefit of the Philippines’ dogs.
May his passionate spirit be a guiding light to Animal Kingdom Foundation and his Philippine team as they continue the battle against the wicked dog meat trade. Thank you for your love of dogs, Charles. Enjoy the company of the dogs you have saved, and who are now with you in heaven.
Greg S. Quimpo & Heidi Marquez-Caguioa
Animal Kingdom Foundation, Inc.