years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Amidst all this bad news for dogs and cats, there is hope. More and more people in China are bringing dogs and cats into their homes and helping to spread the word that they are far more deserving as our friends, rather than food.
The demographics in China are changing rapidly. Traditionally, entire families would live together under one roof, but today the trend is for young Chinese to move out and set up their own homes, thus leaving the older generation to live alone. In addition, the advent of the one child family planning policy on the mainland has resulted in lots of lonely children. Increasingly in these cases, dogs and cats are brought into the home for company. (The situation for dogs in the countryside has, unfortunately, remained largely unchanged. Traditionally, there has been a very practical approach taken towards dogs, i.e. they guard your house and then they are eaten.)
Under communism, dog ownership was forbidden in urban areas since it was feared as a public health hazard and seen as a sign of a bourgeois, capitalist indulgence. Additionally, because of the lack of civic education concerning responsible pet ownership, rabies is (and continues to be) a big problem. Between 1950 and 2004 108,412 human rabies cases were recorded, a huge number which serves to make people afraid of dogs.
The license to keep a dog in the city was, until very recently, extortionate - around US$2,800 per year – to discourage people from keeping dogs. Today, the fee has been reduced, but is still extremely costly. Initial registration costs as much as US$1,235 a year in Guangzhou, for example. In Beijing, however, the fee has recently been cut from US$660 for initial registration to US$110, and the subsequent yearly fee is approximately US$60. But even the lower fee in Beijing is quite a lot of money when you consider that the average worker’s salary in China is just US$950 per year.
Despite the obstacles, estimates show that there are now over half a million registered dogs in Beijing, with many millions unregistered. Owning a dog has become a status symbol and it seems that in the long-term, the pet industry may be much more profitable than the meat dog industry. Wealthy young mainlanders lavish money on their pets, and pet shops and grooming salons are popping up all over the big cities.
While this is good news for China's economy - and also helpful to show the Government that caring for dogs can see a greater financial benefit than the dog and cat meat industry, sadly there is a big downside to "pet" ownership. Designer dogs are being bred indiscriminately and become victims of a terrible industry of perpetual breeding and a throw away society. Pet shops are making a fortune and often the dogs that are bred are discarded once the owners become tired of them. These dogs are joining the mixed breed dogs in the live animal markets - thus adding to an industry of cruelty and despair.
Animals Asia appeals to our friends and supporters across the globe - not just China - to adopt dogs and cats from shelters. Every dog or cat you buy from a breeder or pet shop perpetuates the misery for a shelter animal so desperate for a home. We cannot overstate this enough - the pet industry is largely cruel and mercenary and while there are undoubtedly "ethical" breeders who love their pedigrees, many of the dogs they sell will then become breeding machines for others not so ethical and determined to cash in on the burgeoning pet market.
Still, with many people bringing companion animals into their homes and with attitudes towards dogs in transition, we believe that we have a window of opportunity to raise the profile of dogs and cats, showcasing them as our friends and helpers, in need of our love, respect and protection. Thus we are expanding our Dr. Dog programme, together with distributing our "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" inspirational and educational film, which compels people to reconsider their attitude to dog and cat eating. Rescued from meat market, Eddie is the perfect ambassador to show that a dog is a dog is a dog - and that mixed breed dogs are every bit as loving as pedigrees.
We are also aware that the new dog and cat owner often has little information as to how to care for their companion. For this reason, we have created our own Animals Asia pet care leaflet that is being included in the "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" Film Pack that is currently being distributed by the thousand, free of charge, across China.
Finally, we hope that the overarching message - "adopt and cherish, populate and perish" - will finally win out and the shelters will see their rescued and abandoned populations of dogs and cats finally adopted into loving homes.