MOST people say that dogs and cats are man’s best friends. These two domesticated breeds of animals have established close ties with human beings to the extent that some pet lovers have dedicated their lives lobbying for their rights and fighting against animal cruelty.

Among them is Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Executive Director and self-confessed cat-lover Anna Hashim-Cabrera who has been an advocate of animal rights for more than a decade. Her unwavering commitment to her advocacy has inspired people to join the same cause.

Starting point

Graduating from the University with a Commerce degree in 1994, Cabrera expressed great concern for animals and vehemently opposed animal cruelty.

After leaving the walls of her alma mater, she searched for an animal welfare organization she could join because she felt that animal protection was not given enough attention in the Philippine society.

“You can only do so much when you are a student because you have to prioritize your studies. But I really felt strongly about animal cruelty,” Cabera, a former editor in chief of the Commerce Journal, said.

Cabrera joined her first organization, the Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, shortly. It was a group that promoted the proper treatment to animals.

Realizing the need to educate people about her advocacy, Cabrera signed up for PAWS in 1997.

During that time, she juggled her duties as a loans officer at the Philippine National Bank and as a young volunteer for the non-governmental organization that aims to prevent animal cruelty.

After almost 10 years of being a volunteer, her passion and dedication for animal welfare paid off when she got promoted as Program Director in 2006.

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“They looked on the roster of volunteers and saw that I was coordinating practically everything in every campaign,” the diligent 38-year-old animal-lover said, recalling that she was not paid for the services she rendered that time, but was nevertheless enthusiastic to do her job.

“The cause kept me going. We wanted to do something about animal cruelty. We wanted to do campaigns. We wanted to increase awareness,” Cabrera said.

Animal lover

Cabrera said she grew up in a family of animal lovers.

“My sister and I used to pick up animals all the time,” she said.

A mother of a 9-year-old daughter, she said that she prefers cats to dogs. She cheerfully confessed later that her daughter’s first word was not “mommy,” but “cat.”

Cabrera owns eight cats at home; three of which are failed fosters from the PAWS shelter. Failed fosters are when one decides to take in an animal temporarily but adopts it as his or her own eventually.

On a personal note, she noted that her father was the first to inculcate in her the value of animal compassion.

“My dad was the one who taught me that what you are as a human being is how you treat animals,” she said.

Aside from being an acclaimed animal aficionado, she is also a gifted wordsmith.

With a penchant for writing fiction and short stories, Cabrera became the first Commerce student to win the Gawad Ustetika’s Rector’s Literary Award (RLA) in 1993. Chosen by the UST Rector himself, the RLA is granted to any of the first-prize winning works that best reflects the “Catholic vision” of UST.

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Aside from that, she was also a member of the Thomasian Writers Guild during her college years.

Making a difference

Cabrera was also active in the campaign for Republic Act No.8485 or the Animal Welfare Act, the first national law against animal cruelty.

“I was part of the group that lobbied for it in 1998. After just one year of intensive lobbying, we were able to get the law passed,” she said.

“But of course, it was due largely to the work of Mrs. Nita Lichauco, the current PAWS president, who has been working since 1986,” she added.

She was also one of the three core people to put forward the PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center (PARC) in 2001.

Today, the PARC serves as the first real animal shelter in the Philippines and provides homeless and abused animals a temporary home.

“No animal is ugly, every animal has the potential to be beautiful. There is love, care, and proper veterinary care here,” she said.

Cabrera has since been continuing to rouse people to join the cause toward animal protection and responsible pet ownership through her weekly radio show, The Animal Chronicles.

“You have the power to make a change. When you find yourself in a situation that is unacceptable to you like animal cruelty, just make sure you can do something at your own level. You can make a difference,” she said.

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