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July 5, 2011

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Briton works to improve animal welfare

BRITON Marvin Manalac quit his IT job in London, moved to Shanghai in 2006 and two years ago opened an animal rescue center with adoption services. Nie Xin reports.

Animal lover Marvin Manalac believes every animal deserves a safe, secure and loving home.

So in 2009, Briton Manalac and his wife Julia founded a non-profit animal shelter and care center in Shanghai, Jaiya's Animal Rescue (JAR).

It's a volunteer group of expats and Chinese who dedicate a lot of time and energy to rescuing and finding new homes for stray and abandoned animals. There are around 10 active members, 20-25 foster parents and more than 40 rescuers.

The group holds an Animal Adoption Day once a month at the Papas Bierstube (Hongmei Road) in Changning District's Gubei area.

In 2005 Manalac, an IT engineer in London, toured China for three weeks and fell in love the culture and scenery. He and his wife settled in Shanghai in 2006.

"It turned out to be the best decision I have made," says Manalac.

He calls Shanghai "by far one of China's best cities, one that is vibrant and ever-changing."

"My family is quite content living here and we intend to stay indefinitely," he says.

Manalac wants to help provide more community services, whether it's helping people or animals. He says his motto is - "we only live once. Don't ponder. Just do it."

The animal welfare group is named after his baby daughter Jaiya Kristina, who died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in 2009.

Today they have a new baby daughter, strong and healthy.

The biggest difficulty at Jaiya's Animal Rescue is ensuring that all rescuers abide by rules and regulations.

"The main issue I come across is rescuers bypassing or not registering with JAR and turning up on adoption day unannounced (with an animal)," he says. It's a problem because all animals need to be healthy (with a health certificate) and have a good temperament.

"I want to help local rescuers but in return I would like them to return the favor by following the simple rules," Manalac adds.

In the past few years, the number of animal lovers and activists has increased significantly, and JAR is getting more support and improving its work. The next adoption day is Sunday, July 10, at 11am-3pm.

Manalac is planning to hold two adoption days a month.

"There's always room for improvement in everything we do and need to do," he says, adding that more education on animal welfare and more activities and events will promote the cause of animal rescue.

He believes Chinese people's attitudes toward animals is changing.

"I already see more and more Chinese loving animals and opening their homes to abandoned and stray animals," he says, adding that quite a few people "are not there" yet.

He looks forward to eventual passage of an animal welfare law and more compassionate attitudes. "Hopefully, things will change," he says.

Manalac and his wife have three dogs, two cats and two lizards. At one time they had six dogs and a cat, all strays.

He has plans for JAR to cooperate with other rescue groups or organizations that seek to upgrade their facilities and services.

"We want to spread the word and be known of our cause and, most importantly, pass the animal protection law in China," he says.

Marvin Manalac

Nationality: British

Age: Not given

Profession: Animal protection activist / art director of the Wondercenter International Preschool (Reggio Emilia School)


Self-description: Easygoing, understanding, patient and open-minded.

Favorite place: Taikang Road.

Strangest sight: Some of the things people eat, such as bugs, scorpions, chicken's feet and the drunken shrimp.

Worst experience: My wife who was seven months pregnant had a medical emergency and the locals refused to help. It was very upsetting that nobody would assist her at her time of need. Lucky for us, one of her students happened to come by and came to her aid. This is something China needs to work on.

Motto for life: "We only live once. Don't ponder. Just do it!"

How to improve Shanghai: Some of the things that I would like to improve are smoking, traffic congestion, pollution problem and lastly an improvement in animal welfare.

Advice to newcomers: Grab a book about Shanghai, read up on the sights and places to see. Go out, explore, and meet the locals. Experience all that this beautiful city has to offer!


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