Mission to save nation's stray pets
Animal cruelty and abandonment is not only a national issue in China but a global problem. The difficulty of dealing with the situation was recently highlighted at the Pet Fair Asia 2017 event.
Several heartbreaking stories emerged from the meeting which only highlighted the need for action to be taken to reduce the numbers of stray pets on our streets.
One story came from Lu Lu, who rescued a 3-year-old cat, Er Duo, named because of his cute curly ears.
“He is a pedigree American Curl, rare among stray cats. These kind of cats are very tender in temperament and like to be in human company, so it’s hard to believe that he would have been abandoned by his ex-owner,” said Lu.
Lu followed Er Duo, who looked lame, to a nearby concrete-mixer truck, where the cat took shelter. She was originally rejected by him but Er Duo came around when Lu offered him some food. On further inspection it was discovered the cat had a broken leg.
“When we got home, he looked up at me with tears in his eyes. It seemed as if he knew he had been saved,” Lu said.
The veterinarian told Lu he was in good condition, despite the broken leg, a coccidia infection and suffering from some malnutrition. Remarkably, Er Duo had been sterilized by his former owner, which revealed there had been some care for the cat.
“Every time he took the medicine we praised him, which made him believe the pills were good for him,” said Lu, who also revealed a change in the cat’s temperament for the better. “When he saw me sit down, he jumped up on my knee, snuggled in and licked my face and hands to show he was happy.”
Lu admitted she couldn’t imagine what would have happened to Er Duo if she hadn’t chanced upon meeting him.
But Er Duo’s story is not an unusual one. There is a common theme on the streets of China with abandoned and badly-treated pets. Teddy and Belle were two stray dogs, and thanks to another chance meeting, they have been adopted by new owners with the help of Sasa, a volunteer in animal care.
“We found them on the riverside of Suzhou Creek and took them to a nearby friend’s house. But we weren’t sure whether they had owners so we sent them back to the spot where they were found, after feeding them, just in case their owners were looking for them,” Sasa said.
When no one appeared after a couple of days, Sasa and her companions took them home and began the process of finding new owners.
“At the beginning, there were many people offering to supply money and food but none of them would adopt,” Sasa said. “But finally, they both got a sweet home.”
Er Duo, Teddy and Belle are the lucky ones among their peers, most of whom cannot be rescued or find a home. But thankfully, with the idea of animal protection becoming more embraced in China, more and more people have started participating.
The campaign to save stray and abandoned pets is so much more than just feeding them. Sterilization and immunization are also two key points in animal rescue. It reduces mass fertility and cuts down animals infecting others.
The TNR method — which refers to a humane way of trapping, neutering and returning stray animals — does work on reducing the population and it is a better way of seeking an adoptive family for animals. But TNR still has some limitations.
“If being returned, stray dogs could still hurt people,” said Zhou Jing, vice president of Beijing-based Association of Small Animal Protection.
Zhou believes that the root of all stray animal problems are human.
“One of the major causes of stray animals is their owners’ abandonment,” Zhou said. “And the young generation accounts for a large majority of these owners. Some undergraduates buy pets for their girlfriends as gifts. But when these animals get ill, they often choose to abandon the pets because they could not afford the high cost on medical treatment.”
Zhou and his team are now transforming their mission from rescue to population control, management and education.
“We always prompt the concept of rationally purchasing, scientifically epidemic preventing and civilized adoption,” Zhou added.
His view is supported by Shen Ruihong, head of China Beijing Kennel Club, who mentioned that they annually organized 300 to 500 educational events in Beijing’s communities since 2006.
“In the past decade, Beijing has sterilized about 70,000 stray cats and dogs, but this number is still far smaller than the existing ones,” Shen said. “So I think the more important thing is the education on people’s view toward these animals.”
Cai Xiaodong, general manager of Royal Canin China, is also calling for attention to stray animals and the spreading of knowledge such as sterilization to avoid the vicious cycle on uncontrolled breeding.
“One difficulty on stray animal rescue is that too many rescuers want to help these animals but they don’t know what to do,” Lu told Shanghai Daily.
“Many of them cannot ensure they will not be hurt during the rescue or how to deal with the sick or injured animals, which may cause a secondary damage to these animals.
“If the adopters of stray animals abandon them again, the secondary abandonment will leave a huge psychological shadow over the animals and make further adoption much harder.”
Lu’s greatest wish is that the government issue a law on animal protection to reduce animal abuse. Also to offer more education and training on animal care, as well as setting up more official shelters.
Zhang Bi, an official from the state animal disease control and prevention center, said China does not have any law on stray animal management.
“There’s still a way to go on setting a national law on it due to the consideration of different regions’ condition,” said Zhang “But with the rising public voices, this hope is growing bigger.”