Fifty-five volunteers from Animals Asia’s Dr Dog animal therapy programme have been recognised for their vital contribution to China’s burgeoning animal welfare movement.
The Dr Dog animal therapy programme has seen registered therapy dogs and their volunteer owners visit hospitals, homes for the elderly, disabled centres, orphanages and schools across China since 1991. Over 1,000 “canine consultants” have worked with Animals Asia as animal therapists, and their enthusiastic owners are a vital part of the process.
Acknowledged at the meet-up at Animal Asia’s bear sanctuary in China were the contributions of people like volunteer Shi Yunman and her dog Xiaobao. Xiaobao was recognised as 2013’s most outstanding Dr Dog in Chengdu for the sheer number of visits he and his carer made - a perfect example of the dedication of the programme’s tireless volunteers.
Shi recalls her first inclination to enrol Xiaobao in the programme:
“I thought Xiaobao was so docile and lovely that she would be perfect at bringing smiles to people in need.”
There are presently around 260 volunteers in the China Dr Dog programme, and they come from all walks of life. The latest meet-up included volunteers ranging in ages from young students to the retired - as well as people from a variety of industries and of varying backgrounds.
Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:
“The contribution of these volunteers is just huge. So many people have been helped by the company of these caring animals, who themselves are helped in turn as a result of this rapidly growing animal-loving community in China.
“The message of Dr Dog has always reflected people helping animals, helping people. So many positives evolve as a result – and especially acknowledging that a dog is a dog is a dog. Many of these dogs are mixed-breed, helping to spread the message that it’s not just expensive pedigree dogs that deserve our respect, while Dr Dog brings happiness to individuals across all sectors of society.”
Since its beginnings in Hong Kong, the Dr Dog programme has expanded to Taiwan, the Philippines, India, Japan and Malaysia by providing local animal welfare groups with training and advice to run their own programmes independently. Animals Asia estimates that the scheme brightened the lives of around 25,000 people in 2012 alone, including special-needs children, the sick and elderly in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu.