Pandemic inspires more compassion for animals in Wuhan
Da Huang and Xiao Bai were once stray dogs suffering from hunger, pain, extreme weather and rejection on the street until they were rescued by volunteers from Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association, a nonprofit animal welfare organization.
These two furry pups, along with more than 400 rescued paw pals, live a healthy, happy and cozy life at the association's Baiyushan shelter.
They no longer struggle for food and shelter, and don't need to worry about getting run over by cars or being victims of human cruelty. But they still need homes, and the rescuers believe such gentle and affectionate souls deserve permanent and exclusive love.
In recent years, a growing number of Chinese have opted to adopt rather than shop for pets. However, many still choose to go for breeder-bred pets due to widespread myths and misconceptions about sheltered animals.
The animal protection association, just like any other animal welfare organization, faces a big challenge – the sheer number of animals in need of assistance.
To provide a healthier environment for animals and shelter workers, increase pet adoptions and promote the harmonious coexistence of humans and animals, Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association, A8 Design Center (A8DC) and Yadong Consulting launched "We Care, We Change" – the first cross-border animal shelter renovation program in China that brings together experts from various fields across the country.
The 0.6-hectare shelter based in Wuhan's Qingshan District will include a designated adoption area.
"We aim to create a people and animal-friendly space that creates intimacy between those looking to adopt and the animals. We hope this project, as the first of its kind in China, will set an example for others, and more stray friends rescued by Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association will find permanent homes," said Li Tao, national first-class registered architect and co-founder of UAO Design, the final candidate for design.
Founded in 2005, UAO Design has supported several public welfare programs. In 2019, the company won the Most Popular Award in "A Winter House for Alley Cats" design competition with its 0.36-square-meter outdoor cat house. The inner part of the shelter for stray felines, which is water and fire-proof and thermally insulated, has food and water bowls. Its outer portion functions as a landscaping flowerpot.
Chengdu-based A8DC and Shenzhen-based Yadong Consulting take reference of the Animal Shelter and Pet Crematorium Lommel at Collectief Noord in Belgium and Palm Springs Animal Care Facility in the United States, and partner with building surveyor Pete Croft from Dogs Trust, a British animal welfare charity and humane society.
The 105-square-meter space currently being renovated will include the main adoption and business center, where adoptions, licensing and related business activities take place.
The dog kennel and care space will facilitate encounters between new owners and animals, and include a photo booth, bar counter and pet supplies area.
It will also feature an education center for lectures, training sessions, animal care-related events and exhibitions.
When Wuhan was hit hard by the COVID-19 virus in January of 2020, Du Fan, president of the animal protection association, and his teammates rescued thousands of pets who had homes but had trouble surviving because their owners were unable to provide daily necessities while the city was locked down.
Yadong Consulting, which aims to improve the lives of all animals in Asia, provided 13.145 tons of pet food to 42 local groups in Wuhan, including Du's organization.
Du, who has worked in the field of animal welfare for 15 years, and his team have rescued more than 10,000 animals in Wuhan.
While most of these animals have found their owners, more than 400 at the Baiyushan shelter, 200 at a second shelter in Huangpi District and 100 at numerous foster homes still dream of a permanent home.
"With professional designers, this project will be life-changing for our animals and get to the five freedoms of animal welfare," said Du, adding that the five principles include freedom from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, fear and distress and freedom to express normal behavior. The five freedoms concept has become central to emerging animal welfare policy and strategies worldwide.
The "We Care, We Change" program helps create a more humane and comfortable environment for animals. It also encourages more people to adopt rescued animals.
"We are not only bettering the lives of those furry creatures, but also protecting human health and the environment," said experienced architect Li. "People will benefit from solving the stray animal overpopulation problem."
COVID-19 has sparked interest in pet adoptions across the globe, and many animal shelters are experiencing an adoption boom, especially dogs, according to research published by the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
To Du and Suki Deng's delight, animal awareness has improved in recent years, and more professionals from other fields have reached out to help with animal rescues.
"We started our first seminar about companion animals in 2006, and it was heartbreaking when many individual rescuers cried for help amid lack of assistance. Now animal welfare advocacy groups have become more united, and an increasing number of young people have devoted themselves to this field," said Deng, project director at Yadong Consulting.
She also noted that social media platforms and cooperation with government authorities have helped generate more public support, and made it possible to save the lives of more animals in need.
Numerous Internet influencers, KOCs, KOLs and celebrities have spoken out for voiceless animals, and about 90 official animal welfare organizations in China have joined hands with local authorities, according to Yadong Consulting.
"We Care, We Change" will wrap up by the end of October. Interior design elements of the renovated shelter as well as visual identity and illustrations will be exhibited in Wuhan and Chengdu.
The growing trend of creating more harmonious human and pet relationships in China has brought about more animal-friendly venues.
Countless options are open to pet owners in Shanghai, enabling them to enjoy good times with their furry family members.
Last month, Shanghai's first pet restaurant that exclusively serves fresh cat and dog food (human food is not allowed) opened in Xuhui District.
The menu features more than 20 kinds of staple foods and snacks and 10 desserts, for which prices range from 19.9 yuan (US$3) to 198 yuan. Customers can also have their meals customized.
"The concept of this restaurant brings me a sense of security," said customer Miao Xiaoning, parent of Doudou, a 9-year-old Bichon Frise dog. "The chef has a certificate in companion animal nutrition, and the food safety for my dog is managed."
An exhibition featuring a humorous collection of cat paintings by Japanese artist Shu Yamamoto that parody famous paintings is ongoing at Bridge 8 Art space – 1908 Granary.
Every Friday, cat-and-owner tickets are available for felines and their "slaves" to enjoy paintings such as "Mona Lisa," "The Gleaners," and "Girl with a Pearl Earring" in which the main characters are replaced with cats.
"It's a very eye-opening exhibition," said Fiona Gu, an insurance consultant who has two cats. "For felines who enjoy social interactions, it's an intriguing experience for them and their owners."
Pet-friendly venues in Shanghai
Xuhui Riverside Park
Address: Longteng Ave. Crosses Ruining Rd
Cat Art by Shu Yamamoto Exhibition
Tickets: 88-188 yuan
Venue: Bridge 8 Art space – 1908 Granary
Address: 1247 Nansuzhou Rd
Cat and Dog Club Pet Restaurant
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
Address: B/2, Poly Sunny Walk Plaza, 230 Ruiping Rd
pocket pocket cafe
Address: 309 Yongjia Rd
Address: 698-3 Yuyuan Rd
Address: No. 1-9, Lane 500 Dongyu Rd, Pudong New Area
Scan the QR code or visit http://www.590pet.com for more information of Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association. Are you willing to adopt a pet? Get in touch!