In the past, dog keeping was discouraged by the Chinese government as a feature of a decadent bourgeois lifestyle, with no legitimacy in socialist China. Watchdogs in rural areas were subjected to government-orchestrated culls. Street dogs were a rare sight in cities.
Unfortunately, they are now common. Abandoned by their former families, they take every scrap of food as if it were their last meal, falling victim to disease, random kicks by heavy boots, oral abuse, city officials bent on eradicating them, and dog meat traders seeking profit.
Too easily discarded
As China’s economy has improved, pet keeping has returned to the country, with an estimated 130 million dogs living in China today. Not every owner is an ardent animal lover, however; some are merely chasing fashion. A lack of knowledge about animal behavior and proper care, along with limited accessibility to and affordability of veterinary treatment, has led some to desert their companions when they tire of them.
With urbanization, people have also moved to high-rise apartments, leaving their pets behind. “The Scar of the City” (2010, Xinhua Press), written by Xi Ying, a Chinese animal advocate, depicts in graphic photos the plight of dogs left behind in older residential areas when their families moved to new homes.
Taking action to help
Chinese animal protection NGOs have taken note of the nation’s street dog issue, and shelters have emerged across the country. For example:
- In Chengdu, the Home of Love has taken in more than 2,000 dogs and 600 cats rescued from abuse and abandonment. The staff work hard to get the dogs ready for adoption.
- Nanjing’s Ping An A Fu, a co-sponsor of the Third China Dog Ownership Management Symposium, has more than 2,000 dogs rescued from the streets and from the dog meat market. Ping An has an active collaborative relationship with the local police department, and talks are under way for the police shelter to be co-managed by Ping An.Once implemented, this agreement will allow Ping An and animal protection activists to have ready access to the police shelter and assist in its rehoming and animal control operations, an unprecedented development in China.
- Vshine Animal Protection Organization, formerly known as Pet100, continues its work on street animal rescue, vaccination and sterilization efforts from its headquarters in Dalian. As a new partner group of HSI in Northeast China, VShine activists have assisted HSI’s street dog protection campaign, as well as participating in other HSI sponsored activities such as the “Meat-less Monday” initiative and the Be-Cruelty-Free campaign against animal testing in cosmetics production and registration.
And since 2009, HSI and Animals Asia Foundation have together sponsored several China dog ownership management conferences with the aim of encouraging responsible pet ownership and humane government policy towards street animals.
HSI is proud to partner with these and other groups as we work to find humane solutions to the problem of street dog overpopulation in China.