Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (AARRC) serves as a home of more than 70 rescued dogs and cats. And for one night, it was my home, too.
I arrived on a Thursday, almost two hours before midnight, with a group of dogs howling at me. I’d like to think they say “welcome!” as they were all so aggressive, barking their lungs out, approaching me, maybe trying to sniff if I am a bad person or not.
The place was dark, I’m almost walking blindly. I can feel that some of the dogs were huge but they all treat me just the same –like a new member of the family. From then I knew that I’ll wish to stay longer than my supposed 10 hours of stay.
I discovered the place on AIRBNB. They offer bed and breakfast and a memorable bonding experience with the animals. The founder of AARRC, Michel van der Kleij, who is currently abroad, manages the AIRBNB account from Netherlands. He directed me to Jenie Mae Irineo, her Filipina wife’s niece, whom I personally met on site.
Jenie tells me that the dogs in AARRC are a mixture; it doesn’t matter whether they’re Aspin (Asong Pinoy), labrador, german shepherd, or what not –every kind and breed are welcome to the center.
Every day, the caretakers are cleaning the place, taking the dogs to the beach for their exercise, and feeding them proper food and vitamins.
Each day is a challenge, not just for the animals of the AARRC, but most especially for the humans taking care of them.
A total of 14 kilos per day is being spent on food alone, save for the vaccines, wheel chair, and other medicinal needs of the pets who deserve a warm and tender, loving care.
In the short time I’ve spent with them, I have seen that despite their situation, these dogs are still cheerful and loving –all willing to hug you, play with you, and make you feel at home.
Here’s to hoping that they’d all, little by little, find a home where they are treated with love and respect.
To know more about the center, here’s a Q&A with the founder, Mich:
When and how did it all started?
We started officially in 2011 when the Albert Foundation was established in the Netherlands. This foundation supports AARRC financially. I am the founder of both the Albert Foundation and AARRC. But in reality we started in 2007 when a cat, Mimi, first stepped into our garden and decided to stay. We had her spayed an noticed that the level of expertise of the veterinarians was lacking compared to those in Europe or the US, something we wanted to address. Also we noticed the attitude of the people towards animals was not so good: people started reporting animal abuse to us and we were offered kittens and puppies or just found them abandoned in the streets or in the swamps.
Are there any challenges you encounter with putting up the center?
Mainly financial. It’s hard to get sufficient funding. There is a lot of competition for funding and animals are always way down the priority list. I think this is short-sighted as the fate of man and animal is strongly intertwined. Then there is of course a general lack of appreciation of what we’re trying to do, again because people think we help ONLY animals, which they’re not interested in themselves.
Are there usual volunteers or donations for the center?
Nowhere near enough! Our first volunteer helped us a few years but then moved to Baguio. Fortunately there is someone else though but we need many, many more. Once we have established our centre in Linabuan Sur, we’re hoping to be one of the internship sites where veterinary medicine students from the Aklan State University can do their internship. That should help the students and us, as well as the community.
If ever there will be volunteers, what can they do or offer for the center?
The most important job of volunteers is to socialise with the cats and dogs so they meet as many kind people as possible. The volunteers can walk the dogs to the beach, clean the kennels, and help with feeding as assist the staff doing e.g. the monthly hygiene work. More specialised volunteers can help with the (computerised) administration, maintaining the web site and Facebook page or even assist with spay/neuter campaigns when we catch, spay/neuter and return feral animals. We also do food-runs at night, distributing food with ivermectin powder (against parasites) to feral populations and stray animals. Education at local schools is also something that volunteers could help with.
Jenie said that every day they are spending 14 kilos of food for the dogs and cats, how are you managing?
Well, as I said, with great difficulty! We do need sponsors and other sources of income. At present AARRC are running a Bed & Breakfast service, we house (international) volunteers and we have a Pet Hotel, where owners can temporarily leave their beloved pets in our care.
If ever there will be people wanting to leave you their pets for good (say, they are moving to a new place permanently and they can’t bring their pets with them), are you open to accepting those pets?
Please consider that we are a RESCUE. This means that we help animals in need. We are NOT a dumping ground for those that avoid their responsibility. We don’t take kindly to people that are simply fed up looking after an animal. When you take in a pet, it’s a responsibility for life, just like with having children. But if an animal is in need, we will never refuse that animal. So people that spot an animal in trouble can contact us. The other category we can help them rehome their pet, but it is STILL their responsibility.
How about people who want to take care of the rescued pets, what are the qualifications?
Sponsoring is of course more suited for foreign contributors, although we have already re-homed 3 cats to Europe with a 4th on the way.
Adoption involves demonstrating your identity, references and paying an adoption fee of PHP500 (or more if you want to support us). We reserve the right to visit and retrieve the animal if we feel the adopter is not taking good care [of them].
Also, any tips or guidelines for animal welfare? I saw Midnight and it was such a pity seeing what the humans did to the dog with his foot at the back being permanently dislocated. It’s heart wrenching…
Yes, this is everyday practise for us. Midnight and many like him are the result of the relentless greed of people: they breed puppies without knowledge, thereby introducing genetic disorders such as Midnight’s hip displasia. Since most people can’t afford to take care of such animals, they are normally euthanised.
TIPS From Mich:
- Our disabled pets are showing the world that they can AND WANT TO lead normal and happy lives! When you have pets, remember that they are intelligent and social beings, just like ourselves.
- You should consider a pet as a true member of your family, rather than a piece of furniture. They need TLC and, very important, exercise. This will increase the bond between pet and its guardian.
- SPAY/NEUTER your pets, ALWAYS!
- Read up on “positive reinforcement” for tips on how to raise your dog (or cat), it really WORKS!
- Finally, ADOPT from your local shelter and don’t SHOP for kittens or puppies. There are no doubt reputable breeders out there, but don’t take the chance.
See the dogs in action at the nearby beach:
How To Get There
From the Kalibo International Airport:
Follow provincial road until you see Cafe Latte on your left, turn right on the opposite street. Follow this street until you see Wadeford School on your left. Turn left at the next street. AARRC is after 50m on your right.
From Kalibo town centre:
Follow Roxas Ave (shopping mall Gaisano is on this street) towards the airport all the way until the T-junction at the end. Turn left. Follow this street until you see Wadeford School on your left. Turn left at the next street. AARRC is after 50m on your right.
Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
Sunflower Road, Andagao, Kalibo, Aklan 5600 Philippines
Contact No.: +639155985755 (Jenie Mae) / +639072236800 (Angie)