September 29, 2014
Cultivating a Culture of Pet Adoption in China
by Dr. Peter Li
Animal advocates worldwide were amazed and encouraged by the news last month that truck after truck was being intercepted on the way to dog meat slaughterhouses in China. In a four-week period, more than 3,000 dogs were saved from a terrible fate.
Leading the charge of one of these rescues was HSI’s local partner, Dalian VShine Animal Protection Group. These brave activists obtained custody of hundreds of the dogs, worked with compassionate officers at a local police station to make space to hold them, and solicited donations of veterinarians’ time, medical supplies, tents, food and water to help care for the suffering animals. They then helped find homes for the rescuees.
Twenty-nine-year-old Yu Dezhi is Secretary General of Vshine, which has eight full-time staff and more than 6,000 supporters. The group has assisted HSI in our campaigns not only against the dog meat trade, but also animal testing of cosmetics, shark fin consumption and ill-treatment of farm animals.
Recognizing Yu as a strong leader of China’s growing animal welfare movement, HSI invited him to attend our 2013 Animal Care Expo and to complete an internship with the Citizens for Animal Protection in Houston, Texas. There, he had the opportunity to learn more about advocacy, rescue operations, shelter and adoption best practices, volunteer mobilization and outreach to the community.
CAP rotated Yu through each of its departments so that he could see how a stray animal is rescued, how an abandoned animal is accepted, what the procedures are for a newly arrived animal, how CAP conducts fundraising , how CAP communicates with the public, and how shelter animals are cared for.
Training pays off
When he returned to China, Yu restructured things using CAP’s processes as a model, including redesigning VShine’s adoption forms to put a tracking system in place. Now, every adopter must meet basic requirements, register their personal and contact info and pledge not to abandon their pet. Prospective families are visited at home and their paperwork is entered into a database.
He has put other procedures learned at CAP into place as well: making sure that the adopter is committed to the animal, getting agreement for follow-up visits, spaying/neutering before adoption and grooming each animal before featuring it on Weibo (China’s Twitter), WeChat and VShine’s website. Such techniques are not yet widely practiced in China.
As a result of these efforts, Vshine has had great success in attracting adopters. This summer, the group held a public event that was attended by hundreds of Dalian’s citizens and animal lovers. One hundred and thirty dogs were adopted out, and more likely could have been, if available!
Changing the culture
Animal adoption is relatively new to China, because animal abandonment is also a new development with the rise of pet-keeping and the decline of dog-eating. Vshine has been working hard to get people to stop deserting unwanted animals and to adopt instead of buying. Cat as well as dog adoption is becoming more common.
People know about adoption. Shelters are doing it, but a lot of their dogs are old, handicapped or of breeds that are hard to place. Shelters are overcrowded—some have more than 2,000 animals. Puppies are far more popular than adults. Meanwhile, spay/neuter is being promoted, although it is more widespread in urban than in rural areas.
Movers and shakers
Vshine aims to be one of China’s cutting-edge NGOs, with new ideas and progressive practices. It is a very mobile and nimble group. Although located in the northeast, it can dispatch staff and volunteers to anywhere in China where there is a need. For example, on June 13th, the group showed up in Yulin to protest the city’s dog meat festival. They descended on the city square in front of the government building and displayed a banner calling for the end to the festival. The photo of their protest went viral in national media.
On August 23, Vshine appeared in Beijing and worked overnight (along with another HSI partner, the Capital Animal Welfare Association) to get 480 dogs rescued from a truck bound for northeast China’s dog meat market sent to a temporary shelter for accommodation.
Meanwhile, Vshine held two big events calling for awareness of animal cruelty in cosmetics and for ending the requirement of animal testing.
This formidable group with its energetic young leader has the capacity to effect real change and HSI will continue to offer support and encouragement to help achieve our joint goal of improved animal welfare in China. Please give to help street dogs in China and around the world.