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September 7, 2010

A "Wanderer" No More

Humane Society International

  • Wanderer with Mrs. Du. Guangyuan Bo Ai 2010

  • The wound starting to heal. Guangyuan Bo Ai 2010

by Peter Li

This past August, a tourist walking the back streets of Guangyuan in northern Sichuan, China, spotted a street dog with a gushing wound around his neck and contacted staff of a local animal protection group with a plea to do what they could to alleviate his suffering. Ms. Du Yufeng, director of the group, and her volunteers succeeded in trapping the dog, who was later named Wanderer.

Left behind

According to neighborhood residents, Wanderer had been roaming Guangyuan for a long time before he was caught. His injury was caused by a tiny iron string fastened around his neck so tightly that it barely allowed the dog to breathe and swallow whatever food he could find.

Wanderer was fearful of humans. Reportedly, he had been abandoned by his owner after the family moved from an old-style one-story house to a high-rise apartment. After that, people said, each time the animal’s owner saw him outside the apartment or in the stairway, he would bludgeon Wanderer or brutalize him in other ways. It may have been this man who tied the string around Wanderer’s neck as well. After awhile, Wanderer stopped trying to rejoin his former household and started running with two other street dogs in the city’s unfriendly commercial areas.

Appeal for aid

By the time Mrs. Du and her group succeeded in capturing him, Wanderer’s neck was in such bad shape that he needed immediate veterinary attention. Ms. Du, who maintains a shelter of some 300 dogs with an active re-homing program, appealed to animal lovers in China and around the world for help.

A too-common situation

Street animal suffering is an increasingly widespread problem in China. The disappearance of the traditional single-family residence in urban areas has resulted in the abandonment of a large number of former household pets. Left-behind dogs, emaciated, hungry and sick, are seen guarding the ruins of their dismantled old homes after their previous owners move to high-rise apartments.

HSI has been working in China to raise awareness of street animals, the importance of responsible pet ownership, and the need for humane solutions to street animal issues. Our efforts aim to encourage Chinese NGOs to step up their campaigns against dog abandonment. With this in mind, HSI answered Ms. Du’s call for help, providing a small grant to cover Wanderer’s veterinary treatment.

A happy ending

Since Wanderer’s rescue in early August, he has undergone procedures to remove the iron string, knit the wound with more than 30 stitches, arrest infection, cure digestive problems, and enhance his battered immune system. Ms. Du opened her own home to Wanderer and has been giving him all the care and love we humans owe him. His neck injury has been closing and healing. Most importantly, Wanderer has changed from a scared dog with little trust of people into one who yearns for attention from Ms. Du and her volunteers. The power of love explains the change in Wanderer’s demeanor.

An example for others

Wanderer is a typical example of a breed of dog indigenous to China. Most dogs used for meat in the country are of this breed. Wanderer’s story shows people that dogs are intelligent beings. Dogs are more valuable to humans than for use as food. Pet abandonment not only creates animal suffering; it desensitizes the public to animal cruelty, creates public health risks, and engenders a culture of irresponsible pet ownership. Ms. Du hopes to use Wanderer’s story to launch a public education campaign to call attention to all these problems. HSI is proud to play a role not only in Wanderer’s rehabilitation, but also in a campaign with far-reaching significance.

We hope Wanderer will forgive the wrongs done to him and find a loving home.

It is the support of our advocates that has made it possible for HSI to help this dog and promote the message of humane treatment of animals in China.

Dr. Peter Li is HSI's China Specialist.