Animal Welfare and the Aspin Community: When Adventure and Duty Call

Animal Welfare and the Aspin Community: When Adventure and Duty Call

Get to know the story behind Be Kind to All Kinds and the aspin community



When I adopted my dog from Lara’s Ark, I published an Instagram page for her, as Millennial pet parents do. Unexpectedly, her page received remarkable traction, thrusting her into micro-influencer status in under a few months. Since then, Sunny has participated in local campaigns for budding brands and is often playfully called the “go-to diversity hire.” 


In a media landscape over-pup-ulated by designer breeds, aspins don’t nearly achieve spotlight status as often. That is unless they’re presented as the more “palatable” Southeast Asian Village Dog.


Fortunately, online squabbles over aspin being used as somewhat of a derogatory label are no longer as frequent, thanks to advocates like Karen Toyoshima and her band of welfare groups.


RELATED: Pets and the New Generation of Parenthood


The story behind “Be Kind to All Kinds”

Karen Toyoshima, pet ambassador, parent and enthusiast, is the brain behind Be Kind to All Kinds, an ongoing campaign and collaborative space for animal advocates. 


When asked to describe her advocacy, Karen tells Wonder, “My advocacy is something not everybody will ever fully understand. I speak up and fight for animal welfare in our country. As a pet lover and pet parent, my job as an animal welfare advocate is to really dig deeper, to make an effort with all my energy and resources for the benefit of others, to give love not just for my own pets but to others as well.”


She further adds, “I strive to make the public aware that companion animals are important beings who also deserve dignity and respect. That’s when I created Be Kind To All Kinds campaigns and collaborations. To encourage other pet lovers/pet parents like me to do the same, to embrace stray animals in our country, to love all kinds regardless of breed, size, behavior, health and status.”


Unfortunately, instances of cruelty remain relatively rampant in the Philippines, with recent instances of “torture for pulutan” in Pampanga and animal stabbings in Cebu.


Efforts, such Be Kind to All Kinds, provide opportunities to educate pet owners and volunteers, push for reforms and rehome animals in need.


Why animals over people?

As animal advocates, we aren’t strangers to the question, “Why choose an animal-centric advocacy?” Karen weighs in, “My simple answer to that is because they matter, too. Animal welfare is human welfare. Animals improve the welfare of humans in so many ways, ranging from providing companionship, improving mental health, facilitating rescues during natural disasters, dogs used in therapy and aids for people with special needs and so much more. We should never ever question help. Help when you can, help where you can.”


The idea of animal-human coexistence is nothing new. In fact, it’s prehistoric. The difference lies in how we’ve learned to cohabitate.


Nowadays, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a community without a social media account for its four-legged inhabitants. Pleasantly, these accounts go beyond your usual plethora of adorable cat and dog photos—they reinforce boundaries between humans and animals and present reminders for responsible interactions.



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A post shared by Cats of BGC (@bgccatsph)


Social media has contributed to the rise of social responsibility. Thanks to accounts like Cats of BGC and Trion Towers Community Cats, strays are becoming increasingly incorporated into social communities without the risk of disease transmission. 


Still, local advocacies could use more help.


A growing movement—so what’s missing?

The growth of local animal-centric efforts is undeniable, albeit a little glacial. According to Karen, “[The] Philippines is far behind when it comes to animal welfare, but I really do believe that it’s never too late and that’s why we’re here. We aspire to implement a stronger animal welfare act, develop more programs for the communities and stray animals, government-supported vaccination, spay and neuter programs, turn pounds into shelters, better foster facilities, and [have] more people like us who really care, [are] passionate [and] willing to fight for injustices and [uphold] the spirit of compassion and volunteerism.”


“The most powerful way to change the world, to change people's attitudes and behaviors towards animals, is through humane education. Humane education is about fostering kindness and respect for animals, people and the environment through empathy,” notes Karen. It would be an absolute dream if we include animal welfare as a special subject in schools in order to reduce cases of animal abuse, to instill compassion among children, to develop a positive human-animal bond, to make them better citizens of the world.”


So, how can you help? There are ample opportunities to collaborate and volunteer. Among Karen’s many collaborators are ANGKOP and PAWSsion Project, non-government organizations dedicated to aspin and stray rehabilitation and rehoming.



Your dog can even serve the country, should it pass an initial assessment. “You can join us at MMDA K9 Corps, a non-profit organization dedicated to optimizing the capacity of K9s for disaster response, mobilizing K9 enthusiasts towards disaster preparedness, and contributing to the total disaster resilience efforts in the Philippines.”


Another option is adoption. “If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, sponsor. If you can’t sponsor, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, donate. If you can’t donate, advocate. Be a voice for the voiceless. Like what St. Francis of Assisi said, ‘Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’”


The bottom line

Local animal welfare efforts have a long way to go, but the opportunities to volunteer are ample, inviting and exciting. Giving back isn’t always grand—you can start with a donation, interacting with a social media post or attending a workshop. 


Whatever the case, being kind to all kinds doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny. Just a helping hand—or paw—or two.



You can follow Karen at @karentoyoshima on Instagram to learn more about her advocacy. Karen also recently collaborated with JEEP Philippines as part of her awareness campaign.



Words Zoë Isabela Alcazaren

Art Macky Arquilla

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