Year of the Dog to see increased help for stray animals across China
As winter falls across China, charitable institutions, businesses, college students and citizens have taken a series of actions to care for homeless animals that otherwise would face a bitter test for survival.
"The Chinese public has shown greater attention to animal welfare issues, which is evidence of society's humane spirit and continuous moral progress," Zhang Yue, renowned television talkshow hostess and social activist told Xinhua.
Action "Warm Winter"
In 2018, the year of the Dog according to Chinese lunar calendar, the first stray animal ambulance on the Chinese mainland went into operation. It was funded by over 8,000 Chinese citizens in a Kickstarter-like project proposed by local charity TA Foundation.
So far the animal ambulance has provided emergency services for over 1,000 stray animals in the country, including the resident cat population in the Forbidden City that has been affectionately nicknamed the "Palace Kitties."
"Kindness and care for the defenseless has always been an essential virtue in Chinese culture," said Zhang in a lecture given at an international conference on animal welfare.
In 2011, Zhang Yue and her colleagues created TA Foundation, China's first charitable foundation that aims to improve animal welfare across the country.
"For seven years, every winter, food and supplies will be handed out to private rescuers throughout China, to help shelter animals and so the good Samaritans stay warm and well fed," said the foundation's manager Lu Ping in an interview with Xinhua.
The foundation has also been playing an important role in public efforts on rabies prevention, proper pet ownership and welfare conditions for service or assistance animals, such as the earthquake rescue dogs and therapy dogs that have saved many human lives.
"In China there are more and more people joining in the cause for they have realized that to care for our animal friends benefits us humans on many levels: physical and psychological health, social harmony, ethical and moral progress... The list goes on," Zhang said at gala celebrating China's animal welfare achievements held in Beijing this month.
Jenny on the subway
A special celebration was held earlier this week to honor Jenny, a black labrador who has retired from her post as China's 18th guide dog after serving her human partner for eight years.
Jenny was one of the main reasons that Beijing updated traffic regulations to allow guide dogs to board public transport in 2015, said Jenny's partner, Chen Xia, China's first blind piano tuner.
Before that, Jenny had been rejected eleven times at one subway station in the Chinese capital, and the photos and videos of the dog's tearful sad face when hearing her entry denied went viral. Many of the Chinese public urged public transport authorities to change the law for service dogs.
"Assistance dogs being allowed into public places showcased the progress of social civilization, and indicated that Chinese society has been building a greater sense of kindness, tolerance and mutual help especially for those citizens with physical challenges," said Li Qingzhong, chairman of the China Association of the Blind.
"Guide dogs are recognized as the best partners for people with visual impairment to travel the world, though in China there are still few."
Stray care from campus to companies
Over the weekend, over a hundred universities and colleges in China joined a "Warm Winter on Campus" action launched by Beijing-based Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA) and 58 Campus, a college-student-targeting subsidiary of the 58 website, a major online classifieds marketplace.
A simple "Like" of the initiative and/or repost on social media, allows students to spread the word and call on more people to care for the urban animals that coexist with humans, according to Zhang Yanyan, secretary general of the association.
CAWA has been encouraging empathy among college students, delivering over 700 lectures and courses on animal welfare and environmental protection in over 100 higher-education institutions across the country, Zhang told Xinhua.
"One of the topics most welcomed by the college students has been how to care for stray animals often found on campus," she said. "Experienced CAWA volunteers introduce the most advanced humane stray management programs to young students who wanted to take care of the animals."
CAWA also encourages students not to keep animals during their school years to avoid abandonment upon graduation.
"In a matter of a few days, there have been 3,000 "Likes" collected from more than 30 universities from northeastern Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning, to southwestern Guangxi, Yunnan and Sichuan, and from Xinjiang in the northwest, to Fujian in the southeast... The respect for life has been established as an indication of civility and common sense on campus," Zhang said.
In many Chinese universities and colleges, the students have come together to apply TNR (trap, neuter, return) methods to manage the stray population and find homes for vaccinated, healthy animals that are friendly.
"Stray cats and dogs are precious lives that deserve respect and care," said Tu Yuming, A senior student at North China University of Science and Technology. "I would advise my mates at school not to get a pet if they don't plan to make a lifelong commitment."
On Christmas, at the Beijing headquarters of Sohu Inc. - a leading Chinese Internet company - hundreds of coders and IT managers rushed to a special "matchmaking" activity to meet cats and dogs.
"We hoped to do something heartwarming and emotionally inspiring beyond just eating and drinking to celebrate the holiday season, and what could be better than to provide a loving home for an innocent life in need?" said Liu Xiatian, one of the organizers.
"To adopt a rescued animal has become a positive and trendy way of being among the young people with higher education and income levels in China," said Chen Jia, co-founder and CEO of Beijing Adoption Day, a non-profit animal welfare platform.
Yulin Adoption Day
Yulin, a city in the southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, organized its first Adoption Day event on Sunday.
Over 1,000 people participated in the 7-hour-long event with music, interaction with adoption-ready cats and dogs as well as volunteers and guest stars sharing stories and knowledge on animal rescue.
The city has been known for its annual commercial dog meat festival where animals were "slaughtered to order." The festival has caused considerable controversy, including condemnation form within China and abroad.
"It has been a rough journey to make the first Yulin Adoption Day happen, but to our surprise and joy, many people came and voiced their heartfelt support for the cause," said Ming Xiaofang, a local volunteer helped organize the event.
A Dong, from Yulin, has been rescuing and re-homing abandoned pets from the street for many years. He told Xinhua that he had not expected the positive response from the public although he always knew there were many kind, compassionate people in the city.
For the seven cats and dogs up for adoption, a total of 26 applications were submitted, besides another 22 from people who wanted to join the Adoption Day team as volunteers.
"World, Watch Yulin," wrote a volunteer named Hu Li on the message board at the event, above the event slogan: "Together we build a city of love and harmony."
"We hope to run more campaigns so that the civil and humane treatment of animals and responsible pet keeping can become rooted deeply into the hearts of people in Yulin," Ming said.