A new leash on life

Model Vanizha Vasanthanathan shares her unequivocal love for man’s best friend

03 Jun 2020 / 15:25 H.

VANIZHA VASANTAHANATHAN enthuses: “I love dogs!” with such intense emotion, that there is really no space for doubts. Later, she went on telling me about her four dogs, all of which she adopted.

The 27-year-old model and Odissi dancer at the Sutra Dance Theatre who has graced the covers of fashion magazines, walked the runways at fashion weeks, and who appeared on the billboards of Sephora worldwide has not just a beautiful face, but a beautiful heart.

Most recently, Vanizha was appointed the ambassador of Pets Club @ PU (@p.e.t.s_merch), a non-profit initiative that helps to keep stray cats and dogs off the streets.

Together, they’ve helped raise awareness towards animal adoption, and shed light on how these furry friends could alleviate the sufferings of individuals with mental illnesses.

Have you always been supporting animal welfare causes?

“I’ve always wanted to have pets ever since I was a kid. When I got to know my partner, that’s how I learned more about strays and [listened to] his stories on how he adopted and rescued all his dogs; that really amazed me. He’s my inspiration.

“I always try my best to help the strays and shelters, whenever and however possible; be it donations or by just spreading the word on social media.

“That’s how Pets Club got to know about me, and when they approached me, I immediately agreed because it’s what I wanted to do for the longest time. I still have a long way to go, and have a lot to learn since I’m new at this.”

Vanizha uses her public platform to draw attention to issues she is passionate about. – Courtesy of Glam Malaysia
Vanizha uses her public platform to draw attention to issues she is passionate about. – Courtesy of Glam Malaysia

Share with us more about Pets Club.

“It was officially established in January 2020, but was initially started as a general education subject project by a group of students from Perdana University, called Pets Project.

“The event, Pets Project 1.0 set out to raise funds for helping strays and getting them adopted, while at the same time assessing how pets would be able to help manage mental health problems with additional talks given by a psychologist and a key influencer who supports the cause.

“The project also entailed smaller activities planned on that day, including the incorporation of a hippotherapy session, which is
a type of occupational therapy using horses.

“The club collected a total of RM7,000 in profit to be donated to two shelters, My Pets Haven and Voice For Paws.

“The success of the event led to the inception of Pets Club @ PU with the idea to further run programmes that help not just to raise funds for the shelters, but also create awareness on the importance of strays and how they can help with mental illnesses.

“The club planned to conduct a bigger and better fundraiser Pets Project 2.0 but due to the coronavirus outbreak, all the activities have been put on hold. Currently, we’re focused on educating the public through our virtual campaigns.”

How does Pets Club keep strays off the streets and ensure they are neutered and vaccinated?

“Pets Club is not a shelter, but a student body, hence we do not exactly keep the strays off the streets, but we are in collaboration with a few others who help keep the number of strays on the streets to a minimum.

“It may be true regarding strays being aggressive and laden with diseases, hence, associations such as My Pets Haven, Voice For Paws and others gather strays that need immediate help to be vaccinated and neutered or spayed, and release them back [on the streets] to prevent uncontrolled population growth and the spread of diseases.

“Most of the time, the rescued strays are put up for adoption upon treatment and nurture. The Pets Club plans to help the associations in this initiative one day.”

All her pets are rescued dogs. – Courtesy of Vanizha Vasanthanathan
All her pets are rescued dogs. – Courtesy of Vanizha Vasanthanathan

What are the everyday tasks in Pets Club?

“The club runs multiple virtual projects such as Pet Tales which is published once every week. Pet Tales serves to bring about stories of different pets from their owners to showcase the stories behind the pets they have and how it has inspired them.

“The others are Feed The Strays posters which are posted on random days to raise awareness to the general public to feed the strays.

“We also started a group on WhatsApp called Pets Initiative which serves to [unite] pet lovers of different age groups and those that are not on social media, it serves as a platform to share messages on strays that need help. So far the group has been able to help multiple people with adoption and funds.

“Apart from that, our club also handles donations that come into the club for shelters that need funding, while ensuring full transparency of the funds.”

Share with us some stories about your own pets.

“I have four dogs: Lady, Foxy, Hollywood and Lucy, all of them were adopted by me and my partner Yuthika Peiris.

“My mom didn’t allow us to have a pet at home when I was a kid, because we were not financially stable at that time. So when I met my partner in 2016 he already had two dogs: Butter and Sifu.

“Butter was adopted from SPCA and Sifu was adopted from Ipoh, he was used for dogfighting. Unfortunately, both of them have passed.

“After Butter passed away, Sifu was all alone, so we decided to adopt another dog. Lady was rescued by my partner, but one of his friends adopted Lady from him. Later on, Lady was given back to my partner because his friend had to leave the country for good.

“After Sifu passed away, we adopted Hollywood, then this year in January we adopted Lucy.”

Why is it better to adopt than to buy from pet stores?

“The number of strays in this country could be reduced dramatically if more people adopt pets instead of buying them. When you adopt, you save a loving animal by making them part of your family, and open up shelter space for another animal who might desperately need it.

“Overburdened shelters take in so many strays, abused and lost animals every year, and by adopting an animal, you’re making room for others. Not only are you giving the animals a second chance, but you’re also essentially changing a homeless animal’s life entirely.

“I understand some people can’t keep pets at home but I think everyone can help in other ways by donating and helping shelters who need to be supported financially for the animals they take in or even feeding the strays. A small help can make a big difference!”

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