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Ayna Agarwal

Love for animals goes global

During a trip to India, Ayna Agarwal saw many helpless dogs on the street — some with infections and others missing paws. Seeing this heart-breaking scene drove her to start an organization called Stop Pet Overpopulation Together Globally, Inc. (SPOTGlobally). Girlshealth.gov talked to Ayna about her desire to change things for the better for animals.

How old are you?

I will be 16 in November.

Where do you call home?

I currently live in Edison, NJ.

When did your passion for animals start?

It’s hard to put a time on when I first began to love animals. Actually, I used to hate animals!  I was absolutely terrified of them! When I was small, I was bitten by a dog because I had accidentally stepped on its tail. But one day, when I was in fourth grade, I clearly remember my dad bringing home a beautiful Bichon Frise puppy. She started jumping around like a little rabbit and I fell in love! Muffy is now about 7 years old and I have to say, she is still the same innocent, loving dog that she was 7 years ago. Because of her, I fell in love with all kinds of animals —  small, big, soft, and even homeless. Oddly enough, I credit my passion for animals to my dog.

How many pets do you have, and do you have a love for a particular type of animal?

I have 2 dogs and 4 birds. Muffy, my Bichon Frise, and Chester, a Lhasa Apso, are my life! When I was younger, I used to have a gold and blue macaw (a large parrot); I grew up with him. He recently passed away, but he always kept my family in an upbeat mood. He is probably why my favorite animals are parrots.

You started SPOT (Stop Animal Overpopulation Together) Globally Inc.  What gave you the drive to want to work towards spaying and neutering cats and dogs worldwide?

Sights like this are common in India.  [On a trip there] I clearly remember seeing a dog, suffering from disease and broken bones, rolling around on the middle of a street just waiting for someone to help it; although I knew no one would.  From then on I told myself that I had to do something about it. I knew that becoming a veterinarian would help me save the lives of animals, but until then I couldn’t really give them direct medical care. I thought about it for years and with lots of research I decided to go on this mission. My parents were very hesitant, but it is something that is dear to me.

SPOT (Stop Pet Overpopulation Together) Globally Inc., online at www.spotglobally.org, is a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of domesticated animals in developing countries and unite the efforts of animal advocates across borders. SPOT Globally helps reduce the number of homeless animals living on the streets while increasing the number of potential pet owners at the same time.  I just established this organization officially less than a year ago. We are still in our baby stages!

What is your main role at Humane Teen as a Teen Advisory Board Member?

I act as a role model for other young people, provide feedback and a youth perspective for Humane Society Youth, and help educate others on animal issues. Recently, I was named the Humane Society International Outreach Coordinator. It is such a great way to spread my knowledge to youth all over the world. I get to work with prominent members of the Humane Society of the United States and in the international branch. Being a Teen Advisory Board member allows me to interact with young animal activists all over the world.

Do you take part in any animal relief efforts/programs at your school?

My school, Wardlaw-Hartridge, is the one place that I can really express myself and I know the community will support me there no matter what.  This year I am working on a documentary from my trip to India.  I plan on presenting it to the lower, middle and upper school students. I help spread awareness by explaining the mission of SPOT Globally at volunteer fairs, clubs, etc. Through Club Interact I am able to run pet supply drives for local animal shelters. Even at the school events I run fundraisers to support SPOT Globally. Because we are such a small, close knit family, everyone knows that they can turn to me with any animal welfare problems. The faculty and students are so supportive; all I can do is thank them!

We understand you are a vegetarian, what other things do you do to stay healthy and promote your cause?

I find it really important to stay physically and mentally fit. I love to eat fruits and vegetables, and I try to eat balanced meals every day. Even if I can’t exercise all the time, I like to take part in activities that will keep me moving and active. Even more important, though, is explaining the reason for vegetarianism whenever people ask me why I stopped eating meat. Being healthy is a very important part of my life.

We see you take part in a lot of great activities, what are your other hobbies?

I love to do so many things! My involvement in different activities has helped mold me into the person I am now. I have been oil painting for many years. It is something that I love to do to relax and just enjoy myself. Dance is another one of my passions. I have been practicing Odissi Classical Dance for over 7 years. I have even traveled to India to study dance and perform at prestigious functions and events all over the country. I am also a part of the tennis team, which allows me to keep mentally as well as physically motivated. Having such a strong coach, I learn to keep focus and dedicate myself on and off the courts.

I also am a proud Girl Scout! I have heard so many people say how ‘un-cool’ it is to be a Girl Scout, but it is not just something I do to go camping or sell Girl Scout cookies.  I have learned so much about management skills, running programs, life in the business world, and just life in general. I have just completed my Girl Scout Gold Award Project, the highest award received in Girl Scouting, by running an animal summer camp for younger girls.

When I am not running around to the animal shelter or a school event, I usually like to listen to music, shop, swim, bike ride, talk to my friends — the list goes on! It is really important to me, though, to make sure that I have fun. I guess I should say I’m just a typical teenage girl!

Out of all the things you’ve done to promote the humane treatment of animals, what are you most proud of?

Ayna with catI am without a doubt most proud of my organization SPOT Globally. Although I just started, I have so many plans and goals for this group. I hope everything works out.  I would eventually like to see this organization recognized like other organizations such as the Humane Society. It’s a big goal but I know it is possible. My involvement in Humane Teen has also helped me grow as a person and as an animal advocate. Being a part of the elite Teen Advisory Board is something I am very proud of too.

What advice would you give young girls about finding a passion for something and sticking to it?

Just follow your heart and don’t let anything bring you down, these are the two things that truly made me who I am today. Also, try different things! This world has so much to offer, you just have to go out and look for your special connection. Once you find something you like, try to learn more about it! Pursue it even more. When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer. My dream was Harvard Law School.  But as I grew older, life brought me to helping animals. But I never regret having the lawyer dream because it brought me to where I am now.

Even if you think your goal is too far fetched, keep working at it! Be who you are, and good things will always happen. Whenever I’m down, I listen to a song with the lyrics, “even the best fall down sometimes.” When I was 8 years old, I did the silliest things to help save animals, or at least I thought they were silly. Putting small posters around my neighborhood probably didn’t do much, but I just kept on growing. So never give up and just follow your heart!

Content last reviewed November 01, 2008
Page last updated November 01, 2008

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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