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DOG DAZE Kathy Moran (The Philippine Star) – August 28, 2018

Every campaign of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is different because people are getting more passionate about helping dogs get adopted, especially the Aspins (asong Pinoy),” shares PAWS celebrity endorser Heart Evangelista at the launch of her newest “Have a Heart for Aspins” campaign. “This campaign is a call for people to recognize Aspins as beautiful, loving and loyal dogs so they should be given the same care, love and respect as pure breeds.”

After six years, Heart once again speaks for the underdogs in PAWS’ newest campaign, “Have A Heart For Aspins.”

“There is still a noticeable discrimination against Aspins,” she shares. “I’ve been with PAWS for 13 years now and here at the PAWS Animal Shelter, we have a lot of rescued Aspins who are victims of cruelty and neglect . You can see five of them in the first ad that came out this week. We want to highlight these beautiful Aspins so that they can find their forever homes with a family who will love them unconditionally.”

This newest campaign is part of Heart’s continued commitment to champion the welfare of Aspins and other animals. Heart is so passionate about the cause of animal welfare that she helped PAWS lobby for the amendment of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in 2013, which increased penalties for animal offenders. Heart is proud that husband, Sen. Chiz Escudero, supports her advocacy. She adds that their wedding godmother, the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, was the one who made pet abandonment a crime under the amended Animal Welfare Act.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if all dogs had homes? Then there would be no need for pounds or shelters because there will be no sick or injured dog on the streets,” Heart muses. “There will be no asong kalye, just happy and healthy Aspins under the care of their fur parents.”

Heart adds that she would definitely recommend an Aspin.

“I know several amazing people who have adopted the puppies that I would show,” she says. “Like Solenn Heussaff, Celine Lopez, Joey Mead —  I think that the list would go on and on of people with big hearts who have adopted the puppies that I would foster. I would definitely recommend for them to adopt instead of buying one.” 

The Aspin has always had a special place in Heart Evangelista’s heart. Although growing up she was not conscious of dog breeds — as she grew up in a family that loved animals and that took in all dogs no matter their appearance — it was her experience with rescuing Aspins that made the actress-turned-animal-advocate become concerned about animal cruelty incidents in the country.
She relates that her first encounter with animal cruelty was when an Aspin ran into their home in the province to seek refuge from dog-killers who were trying to slaughter the dog for meat. Heart’s dad, also an animal lover, reported the dog-killers to the barangay. The Ongpauco family eventually adopted the rescued female Aspin, who was very sweet and became very dear to them.

Heart realized that dog-slaughter, despite an animal welfare law existing in the country since 1998, usually involved only native dogs, which are commonly referred to as askals or asong kalye because they were generally the type of dogs you find roaming the streets.

Blast From The Past
When Heart met PAWS’ program director Anna Cabrera at an Earth Day event in 2005, they talked about the disparity in the way native dogs were being treated. Cabrera informed her that the victims of the majority of the cruelty reports that PAWS receives are native dogs.

There was also a problem with the way native dogs were viewed — that they were good only as bantay or guard dogs. A typical practice in Filipino households would be to have two dogs which were subject to a double standard of care: a native dog that was chained outside the house, fed table scraps, and generally left alone, and a purebred dog who slept inside the house, ate commercial dog food, played with the owner and was regularly taken to groomers and pet-friendly malls or parks.

So in order to change the mindset, PAWS focused on creating a new and enlightened name for native dogs.
In 2005, PAWS mounted the “See Beauty Beyond Breed” campaign with Heart Evangelista as its celebrity spokesperson. The campaign became the vehicle to launch the new term Aspin (Asong Pinoy) to replace askal.

The ads showed Heart posing with the PAWS shelter dogs, which was the very first-time native dogs were featured in a national campaign.

In 2012, Heart’s “100% Beautiful” campaign, (  which promoted the beauty of native mixed-breed dogs, was launched. Its message was that native dogs — just like the Filipino people — may be a product of different breeds or origins, but they are just as smart, just as loving and just as beautiful as their imported counterparts.

This year, “Have A Heart For Aspins is a call for responsible pet ownership. Prevention is always better than cure. And the prevention of animal cruelty starts with us being good examples of responsible pet owners especially for our Aspins.”

The billboard is now up at Ayala Malls TriNoma, while posters will be seen starting this week at Ayala Malls Vertis North and circulated across the PAWS website and social media accounts to increase awareness about Aspins.

“Ending pet homelessness involves a series of steps including a conscious effort of saying no to the things we have been used to seeing or doing,” adds Cabrera. “Allowing pet native dogs on the streets should not be the norm, especially since it gets dogs killed. PAWS advocates education and a nationwide spay-neuter campaign to help curb pet homelessness and cruelty against Aspins.” 

“I think that Aspins appreciate the love that you show them,” Heart says.  They are so hungry for affection that once they get it they become very loyal to you. “Panda sleeps in our room, she goes with me during tapings. She’s smart, she’s beautiful and I am sure I speak for her when I say that we hope this campaign helps lessen animal cruelty from happening.”