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DOG DAZE By Kathy Moran (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 7, 2016 – 12:00am

The Matsunaga siblings, Daniel and Vanessa, are the latest celebrity ambassadors of The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) campaign to promote “spay and neuter” or “kapon” of companion animals. The ads, shot by photographer Roy Macam, feature actor Daniel Matsunaga with neutered dog Sumo and model Vanessa Matsunaga with spayed poodle Carly.

Daniel and Vanessa unveiled the ads at Sobremesa, a pet-friendly restaurant they co-own together with chef Benjo Tuason. It is located at The Sapphire Bloc, Ortigas Center.

“It is the first time I am involved in a campaign for spaying and neutering,” said Daniel, star of the TV show Be My Lady, at the launch of the campaign recently.

“I grew up with dogs. Today, we have two Lhasa Apsos in Brazil. Here in the Philippines, we have nine Alsakan malamutes, one Caucasian and one Yorkshire.”  

Daniel admits that three of the Alaskan Malamutes he and his sister Vanessa own are still “intact” because they are show dogs. It was Jun Sunga, husband of Vanessa, who made the siblings aware of the importance of spaying and neutering their pets.

Spaying is the surgical removal of reproductive organs of female dogs and female cats. Neutering (also known as “castration”) is the surgical removal of reproductive organs of male dogs and male cats.

To keep the animals from reproducing, a licensed veterinarian performs spaying and neutering of pet dogs and cats. Having pets fixed is currently not a popular practice among Filipino pet owners and animal lovers. However, this procedure is actually the main solution to the problem of pet overpopulation, which directly contributes to the growing number of stray animals.   

“After having our dogs spayed and neutered I saw how beneficial it is for the dogs,” added Daniel. “Some of our dogs died of old age, others of illnesses and cancers that could have been prevented if we had fixed our pets early on. People think that the dog will not be macho if you neuter him, but that is not true. He stays healthier and ends up living longer; he is more behaved.”

“PAWS does spaying and neutering at a lower cost for those who have dogs in the indigent communities,” says Vanessa. “PAWS has low-cost procedures for indigent communities. The procedure done by PAWS is free, but the cost of medicines like anesthesia is not.” PAWS executive director Anna Cabrera shared that this is the first time PAWS has asked celebrities to help in the spay and neuter campaign.

“We get calls daily at PAWS to help rescue animals that are out in the streets,” said Anna. “Our solution has been to rescue as many of them as we can. Our approach has always been preventive. The real solution to the overpopulation of cats and dogs is spaying and neutering.”

Anna adds that there are many people who adopt the pets from the PAWS shelter, but adoption is not really preventative because the problem continues to be there.
“What we want to do at PAWS is to prevent dogs and cats from being unwanted,” Anna added. “The best way to do this is to spay and neuter our pets.”

“Daniel and Vanessa feel as passionately about spaying and neutering their pets as PAWS does,” Anna continued. “We at PAWS would like to see all pets spayed and neutered so that issues of cruelty and homelessness of pets would be addressed and then there would be no need for shelters.”

“There is a bigger population of Aspins (Asong Pinoy) that are spayed and neutered as compared with purebreds because owners of purebred dogs have a more difficult time accepting the procedure for their dogs,” added Vanessa. “There are many owners of purebred dogs who like to breed their dogs for money — even if they are not sure that their dogs are healthy enough to be bred.” Daniel added that the reason he and Vanessa have agreed to do the campaign is because they don’t want to see any more stray dogs or cats on the streets.

“We are advocates of responsible breeding,” he added. “We would advocate spaying a female dog before six months because it is by this age that a female dog starts to go in heat,” said Anna.

“We really believe that if you are going to get a pet it should be a priority to neuter or spay,” added Vanessa. “You should consider things like if a dog gets free and then comes back pregnant, you will have a litter and then you will not know what to do with the puppies.”

Appearing in the ad with Daniel is their family’s eight-year-old dog Sumo. “Sumo was our first Alaskan Malamute, we got him from a breeder who allowed in-breeding. One of the reasons Sumo had an inherent genetic issue was because his parents are half-siblings,” says Daniel. “We had Sumo neutered because we did not want him to reproduce as he already has physical problems because of the in-breeding.” 

PAWS is hopeful that this campaign will encourage more people to spay or neuter their pets, and highlight the role of responsible pet ownership in reducing the number of strays and improve the general situation of animal welfare in the Philippines.

Host Gelli Victor closed the event by thanking the other members of the team who generously donated their time and talent in creating the campaign materials — Alyanna Martinez (stylist), Jigs Mayuga (makeup), Justine Navato (hair), Arne Sarmiento (graphic designer) and Elmer Pueblo of Archetype Production Design & Newton Studio.  

Feb. 23 is  “International Spay Day” and PAWS will celebrate this event by offering free spay-neuter procedures to indigent pet owners who visit the PAWS Clinic on Feb. 26.

“I would be very happy to close the shelter if there were no more cruelty and overpopulation issues,” said Anna. “And all these can be addressed with the spaying and neutering of our dogs and cats.”