The story appears on

Page B8-B9

May 1, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Animal Planet

The Great 'Meat' Dog Rescue

THE issue of humane treatment of animals in China always makes headlines when a truckload of pathetic "meat" dogs or cats bound for dinner tables is halted by animal activists, who usually buy the animals back and take them to shelters.

The recent spectacular rescue of over 400 dogs - many of them sick and diseased - near the capital Beijing in mid-April created an online sensation and nationwide buzz about food safety, animal protection and the practice of eating dogs (an ancient tradition that is legal and socially acceptable in southern China and elsewhere).

Yet again, animal lovers are asking when China will pass an animal protection and welfare law that covers domesticated animals and companion animals - and is enforceable, with meaningful penalties, if not criminal liability. Such a law is still a long shot.

The dogs (the exact number isn't known since many have died) are quarantined and are still being treated in an enormous effort involving at last 100 animal lovers, plus professionals in veterinary medicine and animal rescue. The aim is to eventually put the healthy rescued dogs up for adoption.

The whole rescue operation, chaotic at first, demonstrates the need for a better system of animal rescue and more professionals who can administer and organize the process, ensuring coordination and communication. There are plenty of kind-hearted volunteers, and in the early stages they often are simply in the way.

Four hundred sick dogs added to the already-strained Beijing animal welfare system is too much to handle.

Rescue of sick animals

On April 15 a truck loaded with over 400 dogs was on a highway near Beijing and headed to northeast Jilin Province where restaurants were waiting.

Activists, who learned of the shipment through the Internet, halted the truck. The shipment was legal and documents were in order, so animal lovers negotiated for 15 hours and agreed to pay 115,000 yuan (US$16,400) to compensate the trucker and dog vendors.

All dogs, many sick and held in cramped filthy conditions, were quarantined. The 300 sickest went to hospitals and clinics around Beijing; the rest were cared for in the shelter of the China Small Animal Protection Association (CSAPA) in suburban Beijing.

But it is not the end of the story.

Natalie Su from Beijing, one of many volunteers, has already spent a couple of weeks traveling between the shelter and animal hospitals and clinics. Veterinarians told her more than half the dogs were suspected of having canine distemper, canine parvo and Brucellosis - all are contagious and Brucellosis can be transmitted to humans. Dogs have numerous other problems, including trauma, tumors, respiratory infections, skin and uterine infections.

Su, speaking in a telephone interview with Shanghai Daily, said several dogs were already dead when they were found, including pregnant ones. But the driver claimed all the dogs were edible and accompanied by valid transport and animal quarantine certificates.

Clearly, sick dogs should not end up on dinner tables, and many think healthy dogs shouldn't either. If this particular shipment had been completed and the dogs had become food, the food safety implications would have been horrific.

"To save the dogs, we are actually saving the people," said volunteer Xie Xiaofa, who runs an online stray animal protection and rescue center Angel Animal Protection Center in Beijing.

According Beijing shelter officials, most of the rescued dogs were rural but some were also pets, including Siberian huskies and golden retrievers. There's even a Tibetan mastiff.

"Some were wearing collars," Wang Qi, a CSAPA official, said in a telephone interview.

"I am really worried about those people who eat dogs. They are risking their lives by eating dogs from unidentified sources," said Liu Lang, an experienced veterinarian of the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association. He recently delivered a lecture about this particular dog rescue, the sick dogs and implications for humans.

It is not illegal to eat cats, dogs and some wild animals in China, though endangered species are supposed to be protected. An animal protection statute has been discussed and debated for years and still there is no law.

Law professor Sun Jiang of Northwest University of Politics and Law in Xi'an, northwest Shaanxi Province established a center for research on animal protection and welfare laws. He told Shanghai Daily in an e-mail interview:

"Although our current laws do not ban the eating of dogs and cats, regional administrative departments for industry and commerce, public health and sanitation should beef up their efforts to regulate edible animals starting from their legal sources. They should also strengthen management of feeding and breeding, hygienic environment, quarantine and disease prevention, trading certification and transport. Slaughter should be carried out in a more humane way. Actually, all of this is necessary for the safety of human beings."

"If all the dogs were properly vaccinated, just as the dog vendors said, how come so many dogs were seriously sick? And imagine those sick dogs being served up on restaurant tables," said Xie, the online animal rescuer. "I wonder where and how these vendors get their certificates. How can such an illegal thing become legit?"

Lisa Hua, the campaign manager of International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW) China Office, had similar concerns.

"China's current laws do not have adequate regulations or rules on companion animals' illegal capture, trade, slaughter, transport and final use as edible animals. Those 400 rescued dogs are just one case among many. This situation is not good for people's health and safety and not good for social harmony."

Follow up

Around 300 of the 400 dogs were rushed to 30 veterinary clinics for emergency treatment, according to Wang Qi, of the CSAPA in Beijing.

The other 100 or so were taken to the already crowded CSAPA shelter for minor treatment. The shelter already cares for around 600 stray dogs. To prevent cross-infection, sick dogs were separated from healthy ones and moved to sterilized doghouses.

Lisa Hua of IFAW told Shanghai Daily that rescued animals are usually traumatized, so they need to be settled in a quiet environment and fed a regular, healthy diet.

All the animals have been quarantined, examined and disinfected.

The rescue on such a large scale, 400 animals, requires professional guidance and cooperation. To handle the situation, CSAPA set up a working panel, teaming up with the Shangshan Animal Charity Foundation and Leepet Corp, which paid the 115,000 yuan for the animals' release. The panel oversees operations and dispatches volunteers to hospitals and clinics, working day and night shifts.

The shelter is now stocked with sufficient supplies, such as dog food, mats and cages.

Last Tuesday, CSAPA received the first relief donation of 200,000 yuan (US$30,761) from the Internet company Tencent.

The association assured all hospitals and clinics involved in the rescue that it would cover all medical costs of caring for the sick dogs. Tencent also confirmed to Shanghai Daily in an e-mail exchange that it would continue providing relief funds as needed.

Around 100 people were involved in the rescue and follow up relief efforts. Requests for help were posted on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, and several pet websites when funds, medicine, supplies and volunteer care givers were needed. More non-governmental animal protection organizations and concerned individuals provided blood serum, medicines and other necessities.

Some Internet postings said it would cost 10 million yuan to treat and rehabilitate all the animals, but CSAPA rejected that suggestion. "What is clear so far is that 200,000 is beyond what we need," said Wang.

As for the future, once the dogs are cured and healthy, they will be available for adoption.

"If there are not enough adoptive families, we will take the dogs back to the shelter and raise them till death," Wang promised. But with 600 dogs in the shelter, accommodation will be very tight and some volunteers doubted it would be feasible to shelter many more dogs.

To help out and accept some of the 400 animals, small animal care groups are looking for space. One Beijing group was looking for a small courtyard to accommodate nine dogs.

Professionals needed

This huge animal rescue effort faced and still faces problems, but one of them isn't a lack of caring volunteers and donors. The problem is lack of a better and larger rescue system with more accommodation for animals. More professionals in charity work are also needed.

A big problem arose earlier last week when several pet clinics said they could no longer afford the medical expense and also lacked medical supplies; medication was stopped for some animals as a result. CSAPA promised to cover costs.

Xie Xiaofa, who runs her own stray animal protection center, said the rescue was a scene of confusion. The current lack of organization shows lack of communication between volunteers and professionals with animal rescue training.

"When the incident first happened, concerned people from all walks of life rushed to help. but it was hard to coordinate among so many and there were delays in information exchange and communication.

"Many warmhearted people offer to help. However, without proper training, they are just getting in the way," she said.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend