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Save them from sure death

It was a pleasure to interview the executive director of PAWS, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Ms. Anna Cabrera. We learned so much from that interview which B&L originally got merely as a feature of one of the segments on the show, Pets & Friends.

PAWS was established in 1954 by a British woman, but the lady did not stay long enough to see it through. A caring Filipina, Ms. Nits Lichauco took over the reins, wanting to have a Filipino group take over the operations of the non-profit organization whose mission was not only to protect animals from cruelty or neglect, but also to promote a humane society.

According to Anna C., the misconception is that PAWS is there to rescue all stray cats and dogs from cruelty. For PAWS, their rescue missions are only a reaffirmation of the existence of the problem and they would rather get to the root of it through education. Their school programs start off with young minds who can still be more easily molded. They also coordinate with the local government units, most of whose programs are limited to providing anti-rabies shots, overlooking the importance of spaying.

The city pounds do their work of collecting stray dogs and cats, but not spaying. The grim reality is that animals stay in the pounds only for a few days, but are eventually put to sleep, euthanized by a licensed veterinarian with an injection of sodium pentobarbital. Many think the animals are prepped for adoption by the city pound, which is a far more pleasant idea to float to the public, but PAWS is certain this is not what actually happens.

In the smallest city in the metro, Marikina City, their records show that they put down an average of 200 dogs every month. Can you imagine the number in big cities like Manila and Quezon City? Anyway, PAWS diligently monitors the condition of the animals in the pound because they are supposed to be fed and cared for until they are put down.

PAWS occupies a big enough space in Quezon City, a no-frills complex that is kept clean and efficient by a skeleton staff of less than 10. Their resident veterinarian just recently resigned and they are now on the lookout for a replacement. The animals though look healthy, well-behaved and well-cared for. They have areas called dog run 1 and 2 which contain the adoptable dogs; the recovery area where dogs that are aggressive towards other dogs are kept, and rehabilitated; and the quarantine area where the newly-rescued animals stay. For cats, they have five areas: the kittenery, cattery, special needs, sick bay and feline quarantine. 

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Although the center’s roster has over a thousand volunteers, Anna says that their core volunteers number only between 20 and 30. These men and women come regularly on weekends to bathe the animals, walk all the dogs, feed and care for the cats and dogs, and PAWS is very grateful to them. If not for the dedicated volunteers, the center would not be able to cope with the over 300 animals in the shelter: 236 cats and 82 dogs rescued and rehabilitated for eventual adoption.

It was PAWS that coined the words Aspin (asong Pinoy) and Puspin (pusang Pinoy) for the rescued animals, rejecting the more popular Askal (asong kalye) and Pusakal (pusang kalye) because of the negative connotation of “kalye” in the terms.

Among their volunteers also are lawyers who handle and pursue the numerous cases filed by the society for animal cruelty and neglect, free of charge.

Many have come to adopt cats and dogs to give them a new lease in life, among them celebrities like Ms. Sharon Cuneta and Heart Evangelista, but there are still over 300 waiting for a caring home. Although they hope to be able to have all the animals adopted by caring families, PAWS is actually very discerning, careful to release the animals they have lovingly rehabilitated to responsible pet owners. Adoption fees are very reasonable: P1,000 for dogs and P500 for cats, but the adoption process is not that simple.

First, an adoption counsellor will interview the prospective owner to determine his/her lifestyle and capability to adopt and possibly find the right match for them. Senior citizens, for instance, may not be the right match for young, energetic dogs, but docile cats may be a good idea. After this, a PAWS staff member will do an ocular inspection of your house, maybe even ask about your future plans to ensure a stable environment for the adopted animal. Dog adoption requires a minimum of three visits, while cats require only two visits so that one can get to know the animal better before they are released for adoption. And, they never release any animal that is not spayed or neutered for adoption Last year, PAWS adopted out only 38 dogs and 42 cats, a small percentage of its total population, but a much better rate of success than several years ago.

Spaying and neutering are at the core of their mission because not only will it address animal over- population and rabies, but it also addresses the issue of irresponsible pet ownership.

PAWS cannot over-emphasize the value of spaying and neutering, and they have these services at the center at a very affordable cost.

The PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center (PARC) was started way back in 2001.  No, they do not own the land where the office and PARC are located, they are merely renting the land. The cost of running the center amounts to P280,000 a month, a staggering amount considering that they depend only on donations, occasional grants and the fun events they organize regularly like Pet Blessings and the annual Pet Halloween Party.

They are constantly in need of vet products and animal food and they hope more people will donate cat food because cats outnumber the dogs in the facility. They are also badly in need of old newspapers, bleach and powder detergents to keep the place clean and sanitized. Let’s do our share for the Aspins and Puspins, and keep in mind that we have a duty to take care of the animals under our care.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

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