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March 5, 2021

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Pip pip hooray! Lucky pup gets a new home

ROLLING around in a fresh layer of snow was a delightful new experience for a Shanghai poodle named Pip, who was adopted by a family in Germany in January.

The little brown dog was found on the streets last October by a Shanghai Animal Rescue founder who wants to be identified only as Katherine.

“It is hard to believe what this poor thing had suffered,” she said.

Katherine said she spotted Pip by the side of a road in Jiading District.

“Every time I venture out, I am always fearful that I will see a stray animal on a road,” she said. “They always seem to come into my view as if by magic, knowing I will rescue them.”

Katherine has been involved in dog rescue services for 12 years. For years, she picked up strays on the streets and took them home. When her house became too small to handle all of them, she helped found the nonprofit Shanghai Animal Rescue.

The group is financed largely by crowdfunding and advertises dogs for adoption at home and overseas.

The rescue service started out with six people but now has some 300 volunteers who are mostly expats or Chinese returning from overseas.

When Katherine came upon Pip, she took photos from a distance with her mobile phone and zoomed in to get a closer look at the poodle. What she saw shocked her.

The dog was as thin as a rake and its mouth was “wired” shut by rope.

“I don’t know how that happened, but it was obviously caused by a human,” she said.

Katherine called the dog and, to her surprise, it came to her. In its eyes, she saw trust and friendliness.

“Not every stray dog is friendly to humans because of the bad experiences they have suffered,” she said.

She got Pip into her car and took the dog to a pet hospital. The veterinarian shaved the fur around the mouth, and cleaned the dog’s wounds. The animal was obedient and very thirsty.

The vet said nothing could be done until swelling around the mouth was reduced. After a week of medical observation, Pip’s medical condition stabilized, and the dog was discharged.

In ensuing months, Pip lived in a series of fosters’ homes instead of being placed in the organization’s shelters in Jiading and Songjiang districts. After three subsequent surgeries, the little dog made a full recovery.

A family in Germany saw information about Pip on the organization’s website and volunteered to adopt the dog. At midnight on January 29, Pip boarded a plane with a flight volunteer, bound for its new home.

Pip is one of the lucky strays. Dogs at the shelters who remain aggressive because of past treatment or are too ill have no hope of being put up for adoption.

Since Shanghai Animal Rescue was founded in 2017, more than 800 of the dogs at its shelters have found homes abroad, including the United States and Canada, according to Michaela Samuel, a German founder of the local organization.

Samuel said she had never seen a stray dog before she and her family moved to Shanghai in 2014. “In Germany, there are no street dogs because of strict regulations and heavy penalties,” she said.

Indeed, by rough estimates, there may be as many as 40 million stray dogs in China. Many are abandoned pets, and some become menaces on the streets, carrying disease or becoming aggressive and attacking passers-by.

The problem is not an easy one to address. Animal rescue groups face lack of funding for food, medicine and shelter facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic added another layer of hurdles.

“Over 100 stray dogs have been adopted by foreign families, but they can’t travel to their new homes because the number of flights has been cut due to the pandemic,” Samuel said. “In the past, we were able to send about 20 stray dogs overseas every month, but now that figure has been reduced by two-thirds.”

It’s not much easier for people to travel abroad, so the group actively recruits volunteers to take the dogs with them as “extra baggage.”

Shanghai Animal Rescue has had to place greater focus on local adoptions. It hosts adoption events on weekends.

The organization is also trying to cooperate with a local rescue and adoption center for small creatures, established last year and supported by various government departments, including the Shanghai Spiritual Civilization Construction Committee Office, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau’s Social Order Department and the Shanghai Agriculture and Rural Affairs Commission.

“Together we can make a difference,” Samuel said. “To us, this may all seem like small steps, but to homeless animals, it’s a new and better life.”

And Pip?

“It can now start the life it truly deserves,” she wrote on WeChat.


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