Education campaign launched following tragic death of Jill Robinson’s rescue dog

27 August 2021

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela.

When it comes to creating long-lasting change, Animals Asia believes that education is key. 

And this philosophy runs through everything we have done and continue to do in our campaign for a more compassionate, fairer and humane world for animals.

As well as rescuing hundreds of moon bears from bile farming and campaigning for an end to the bear bile industry, Animals Asia runs projects that work with local communities to find solutions that benefit all animals and people. 

Help us continue our essential work to end the cat and dog meat trade forever:

Earlier this year, we launched a new education project about dog welfare in an area that has personal significance to Animals Asia’s founder and CEO Jill Robinson, and our team at our China bear sanctuary. But first, let’s find out how this project came to be...

Toj meets Jill!

This story begins in 2011 when Animals Asia was at the end of a long and gruelling investigation into China’s dog meat trade. As Jill Robinson looked down at a cage of dogs who were moments from death, a terrified but beautiful face looked up at her.

Jill recalls the moment she locked eyes with ToZhai. “I remember it like it was yesterday, her chest heaving, mouth bleeding, she was almost paralysed with fear.” 

Jill adopted ToZhai (her name meaning “rabbit” as she was rescued in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit)  and she and Muppet, another dog Jill had rescued from the dog meat trade, became her faithful companions. Little did we know then what joy ToZhai - now also named Toj - would bring to us all, and what amazing things she would go on to achieve.

Toj the celebrity

Toj moved in with Muppet and Jill at Animals Asia’s Chengdu bear sanctuary and despite the terrible experience she’d had, immediately slipped into her new life, making herself very much at home and becoming somewhat of a celebrity among the staff and visitors.

Jill explains, “Toj had multiple mums and dads over the years and wrapped every single one around her paws.”

“We loved her vampire smile and the way she punched you when you were in the middle of a meeting to demand a cuddle or a treat. I lost count of the number of people who yelped out loud with significantly scratched legs if they were foolish enough to ignore her demands!”

Toj became the ambassador for Animals Asia’s China-wide campaign to end the consumption of dogs and cats and she lived to see dogs removed from China’s official livestock list in May of 2020, effectively making the dog meat trade illegal.

In a moment, everything changed

One evening earlier this year, Bear & Vet Team Director Ryan Marcel Sucaet was taking Toj and Muppet for a walk outside the sanctuary. 

Although he always kept his eye on what Toj was sniffing, knowing how food-motivated she was and what dangers might lie outside the sanctuary walls, she suddenly happened upon a chicken bone which had a cyanide capsule tied to it. It had been placed there by illegal dog meat traders.

Before Ryan could even blink, Toj wolfed the poisoned chicken down. Ryan immediately called Jill in a hysterical state, unsure of what to do as Toj hated being picked but he could see she was fading. Jill simply said “pic her up and RUN to the hospital”, which, with Muppet in tow, he did until he reached the sanctuary gates and began shouting desperately for help.

The sanctuary team - former Resident Vet, Doris Chen, former Vet Intern, Crystal Li and Vet Nurse Natalie Faulds - sprang into action and rushed Toj to the on-site hospital. Despite their desperate efforts to save her, the poison had already taken hold and our beautiful Toj slipped away surrounded by her adoring family and friends. 

Everyone was, understandably, shocked, shaken and utterly devastated. How could this happen to Toj, the cheeky, funny, larger-than-life ball of boundless energy, joy and love? And to be taken by the very industry she had already escaped and was working with Animals Asia to end? It just didn’t seem fair.

And true Animals Asia style, Jill and the team decided that Toj’s death would not be in vain. As Vet Nurse Natalie Faulds explained, “Toj’s death has fed the fire inside every person within the organisation to keep fighting for a better world for animals everywhere.” 

And that’s exactly what we did.

Toj’s legacy of kindness

Since Toj’s passing, our Cat and Dog Welfare Team in China has been working on a series of publicity activities and education campaigns for residents and schools of the town where Toj was poisoned. 

With the cooperation of local authorities and the local community, the team set up billboards and posters about responsible dog ownership and how to care for companion animals, showing pictures of Toj and Muppet as happy, healthy and carefree, just as all dogs should be.

A reading corner in Toj’s memory was set up at a local school, Longqiao Primary, as a place for reflection and learning about compassion towards animals. Books about animal protection and environmental awareness were donated by Jill Robinson and an opening ceremony was held to officially launch the ToZhai Memorial Reading Corner.

At the ceremony, Longqiao’s principal, Mr. Huang Jiyong said how proud he was to be part of this historic campaign and stated that “education is of great importance in cultivating new generations of citizens to feel love, compassion and responsibility towards all beings.”

Help us continue our vital education work:

Ending the cat and dog meat trade, one conversation at a time

Animals Asia has been campaigning for an end to the cat and dog meat trade for decades.

We work closely with local authorities and communities to strengthen law enforcement around this highly criminalised trade; we run public awareness campaigns; undertake grassroots outreach and conduct intensive investigations of restaurants, live animal markets and slaughterhouses as well as funding rescues and supporting shelters by local volunteer-run groups in China.

Jill is passionate about this holistic, collaborative and compassionate approach which, she says, is working:

“After many years of high-profile public awareness campaigns about the cruelty and criminality of the trade and the health risks of consuming dog and cat meat, people in China are turning their backs on it.”

In Toj’s memory and for the thousands of dogs and cats who have lost their lives to this cruel industry, with your support we will end cat and dog meat consumption - one conversation at a time.