General Santos City

General Santos animal welfare group harnesses social media for support

Brian Jay B. Baybayan

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General Santos animal welfare group harnesses social media for support

ANIMAL WELFARE. Established in April 2018, the first one in the city, A Heart for Paws GenSan is dedicated to rescuing stray cats and dogs. courtesy of A Heart for Paws GenSan

courtesy of A Heart for Paws GenSan

The group, A Heart for Paws GenSan, is caring for an injured dog that alerted its owners to a fire, credited for saving a sleeping five-year-old child in 2023

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Founded in 2018 as the first non-governmental organization dedicated to animal welfare in General Santos City, A Heart for Paws GenSan is struggling to continue its work to take care of stray animals.

The group lists 162 rescued cats and dogs under its wing, utilizing shelter and foster care. Currently, 98 animals are being cared for in its shelter in Calatao in the village of Tambler, while the remaining are now living in the homes of those who adopted them.

The influx of rescued stray animals, however, has led to the group’s financial difficulties. To keep all their furry friends fed and healthy, they’re turning to social media for help with food and veterinary expenses.

Dr. Josefina Mariano, chair of the A Heart for Paws GenSan, said sourcing of funds is really the part where they struggle the most.

“We really try our best na mapakain sila, maalagaan, mapunta sa veterinarian using public donations. Nagpo-post kami sa Facebook na wala na silang makain ngayon o ipapagamot namin ang rescued pets kasi doon kami hirap na hirap eh,” Mariano said.

(We really try our best to feed, care for, and treat them to a veterinarian using public donations. Through Facebook, we share their stories and urgent needs, like empty food bowls or veterinary treatments, because that’s where we’re really struggling)

While donations help, they still face a shortage of food and veterinary care resources.

“May mga time na 50 kilos na bigas halos tatlong araw lang yan eh. Wala pang ulam wala pang dog food, wala pang vet bill. So ang ginagawa namin kapag walang-wala o hindi kasya yung binibigay from donations, naglalabas kami ng sariling pera namin,” she said.

(There are times when 50 kilograms of rice lasts only about three days. There’s no viand, no dog food, no vet bill yet. When donations fall short, we use our own money.)

‘Hero dog’

The NGO is also taking care of a Belgian Malinois dog dubbed General Santos City’s “hero dog.” Then a four-month-old puppy, Princess, alerted its owners to a fire, credited for saving a sleeping five-year-old child on April 20, 2023, through persistent barking.

Princess suffered third-degree burns during the rescue, prompting her owner to entrust her care to A Heart for Paws GenSan for her recovery.

Animal, Mammal, Pig
INJURED. Princess, a Belgian Malinois dog, after it suffered third-degree burns. The dog is credited for saving a five-year-old child from a fire in Calumpang, General Santos City on April 20, 2023. courtesy of Jacquiline Madi

“Kami ‘yong nag-alaga sa asong ‘yon kasi nalapnos yung balat niya. Walang pera yung may-ari so inilapit sa amin. Nag-post kami sa Facebook tapos naka-raise kami ng pera para sa kanyang recovery and skin grafting,” Mariano said.

(We took care of that dog because its skin was burnt. Unable to afford her care, her owner turned to us. Through Facebook, we rallied the community to support Princess’s recovery and skin graft surgery.)

Passion and risks

Elaine Jane Laquiste, 30, who has been a volunteer rescuer of the organization since September 2018, said they also face threats from irresponsible pet owners during animal rescues.

“Ang finances, lisod jud kay minsan makapagawas na jud og own money. Naay mga time na life and death situation. Naay time na gina-threat nami sa mga pet owners nga gina-ask kung taga asa mi ug wala daw mi labot unsaon nila ila iro,” Lasquite said.

(The financial strain weighs heavily and sometimes we have to shell out our own money. There are times when it’s a matter of life and death; pet owners threaten us, asking where we’re from and questioning our right to intervene in their animals’ care.)

Despite the difficulties, a deep sense of fulfillment washes over them whenever they successfully rescue and care for a stray animal.

“Isa ang fulfillment na once maka-rescue mi og stray dogs and cats. As in real time ang situation, iba ang feeling na matabangan nimo siya,” she added.

(It’s fulfilling when we rescue stray dogs and cats. The feeling is different when you’re able to help them.)

Despite its financial struggles, A Heart for Paws GenSan is currently building another rescue shelter, adding to its existing facility in Calatao with payables amounting to P301,486. –

Brian Jay Baybayan is a campus journalist from the Mindanao State University-General Santos City. Editor-in-chief of The Papyrus, he is also an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

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