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).
Animals Asia rescues more than 100 dogs from earthquake zone
05 Jun 2008
Survivors in Sichuan’s earthquake-hit region of Dujiangyiang are lining up to hand over their pet dogs to Animals Asia for safe-keeping until they are back on their feet. The Hong Kong-headquartered charity has set up a receiving station at a local vet clinic and a hotline for pet owners to call.
Animals Asia, which has a sanctuary in Chengdu for moon bears rescued from cruel bile farms, decided to act when it heard the authorities in Dujiangyiang were implementing a cull of all dogs because of fears they would spread disease. To date, the Animals Asia team has rescued 105 dogs and three cats, bringing them to Chengdu, some to an animal shelter, others to its rescue centre for urgent medical attention.
Animals Asia’s China Relations Director, Christie Yang said that this was one small way of helping the survivors of the earthquake. “These poor people have lost everything, family members, their homes, their livelihoods and now they are faced with losing their much loved pets in the most cruel way, so if we can help them, we will.
“We have promised those who have handed us their pets that we will make sure they are well cared for. If, after six months, they are still unable to take their pets back, we will continue to look after them until they can be reunited. If they decide they can’t take their pets back, we will try to rehome the animals. We are also taking starving dogs that have been found wandering around looking for food.”
Repeated offers by Animals Asia to go into the devastated area to vaccinate dogs and people against rabies and to rescue strays paid off on Saturday when the Dujiangyiang Rabies Control Centre gave oral permission for the charity to help.
We have also secured some free dog food and free vaccinations from the corporate sector and are now concentrating on saving as many dogs (and cats) as possible. It is a race against time, as any dogs or cats found by the police or soldiers will be killed – either shot or beaten with sticks.
We are bringing the animals to the Qi Ming Pet Rescue Centre in Chengdu, which can take around 200 dogs and with the Humane Society International and generous Gil Michaels providing funding of US$10,000 each, we are providing food and building a temporary quarantine area at the shelter, which will eventually serve as a permanent dog enclosure.
Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO Jill Robinson said many animals lovers had been hiding their dogs in the ruins of their building and risking their lives to go back and feed them. “One elderly couple handed over their two pomeranians; they clearly didn’t want to give them up, but they were so relieved that we could look after them. The old man walked away with tears in his eyes,” she said.
Ms Robinson said she was heartened by the response of people in the survivors’ camp, many of whom came up to thank the Animals Asia team for caring about the dogs. She said she hoped that in future the authorities would think twice before ordering a cull in a disaster zone.
“We understand the need to act urgently to stop the spread of disease,” Ms Robinson said. “However, in a disaster such as this, dogs and cats in fact stop the spread of disease by keeping down the rodent population.
“With no dogs and cats, rats and mice will quickly breed to plague proportions, leading to the serious threat of an epidemic. The surest way of spreading leptospirosis is to remove dogs from the streets. Also, with no dogs and cats to control their population, rats will quickly devour food rations.”
Animals Asia contacted Red Cross China immediately after the quake and sent a medical team to Anxian to assist survivors, bringing medical supplies, food and water, and offering basic first aid. The foundation has since sent a team into Dujiangyan six times to rescue dogs and cats.
Ms Robinson said that from day one of the earthquake, dogs had been working alongside human rescue workers doing what they do best – helping humans. “For example, sniffer dogs have found many survivors in the rubble, with one dog saving 35 lives. In another case, an old lady survived for 190 hours buried under rocks because two dogs kept licking her lips and giving her the will to live.”
She said that even family pets and strays, with their keen sense of smell and willingness to help humans, could locate trapped people and human remains – dogs found barking and whining in areas of devastation have often led to the detection of survivors when human rescuers have long since given up.
“We need to remember that these dogs and cats are also victims of this tragedy. Many are family pets that are suffering terribly too. They may have lost contact with their family and now be wandering the streets, thirsty, hungry, weak, sick, confused, frightened and hurt. It is almost impossible to tell the difference between stray dogs and family dogs at this point – and anyway, stray dogs too can provide much assistance in this crisis.”
Ms Robinson said the rescue of dogs and cats would continue over the next few days.