When Cloverdale’s Ashley Fruno arrived in the Philippines to work for animal welfare causes she probably didn’t realize she’d take on a separate project of her own – caring for some dogs and cats in an economically depressed corner of the city of Pasay.
Every Saturday morning Fruno, 26, leads a small team of volunteers to a bus station and an impoverished neighbourhood. Several hundred residents, and about 80 cats and dogs, call the area home.
Fruno’s team provides basic veterinary needs such as parasite control, treating minor wounds, providing flea and tick prevention, and curing skin conditions like scarcoptic mange and fungal infections.
“We also provide food, love, baths, walks for chained dogs, toys, and when owners agree to give their animal a better life, adoption,” says Fruno, a Clayton Heights Secondary grad and third generation Cloverdalian who has been footing the bill for the pet outreach venture largely on her own.
For the past six years, Fruno has worked for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA Asia.
She says readers may recognize her as one of the protesters outside the Cloverdale Rodeo each year.
In hopes of spaying and neutering another 60 animals in Pasay, she’s launched an online fundraising drive to collect $5,000.
For her birthday on July 12 this year, rather than gifts or parties, she would like to see the rest of the area’s animals spayed or neutered – something that will help reduce future expenses of caring for the group, and would reduce the populations of dogs and cats, aiding “the people who struggle desperately to care for the animals they already have,” she says. If any money is left over, she’ll use the funds to provide treatment for sarcoptic mange, a serious problem for dogs in rural areas of the Philippine, and to provide regular deworming treatment to working horses on the island of the Taal volcano.
“I”m just one person working in a small community, but for these animals and these people, it changes their entire world,” she says.
She’s come to think of the bus station and the neighbourhood around it as her home away from home.
“I love arriving and hearing people call ‘doktora’ (because they refuse to believe I am not a doctor),” she says.
Leading by example is having an effect; she is thrilled when she sees bowls filled with fresh water or notices someone bathing their pet.
She’s amazed at how well the people in the area treat her: other women defend her if she’s being harassed, and mind her backpack when she chases off after another ailing cat or dog.
The Philippines is a poverty-stricken country, says Fruno, who thinks a lack of eduction and resources helps explain the country’s cat and dog problem.
“People just don’t know what the animals need, and don’t have the means to provide it.”
So why not help people instead? “The truth is there are so many worthy causes, and the area where I care for the dogs and cats is very poor, but I know that by helping the animals there, I am also helping the people,” she says.
“People want to care for their animals, and they are so grateful for the assistance. They love their animals and they want to do the best they can for them. I am committed to helping them do that.”