xi's moments

Year of Dog channels human hearts to help homeless animals

By LUAN XIANG | Xinhua | Updated: 2019-01-03 09:05

As winter rolls slowly across China, charitable institutions, businesses, college students and ordinary residents have been moved to care for homeless animals that otherwise would face a bitter test of survival.

"The Chinese public has shown greater attention to animal welfare issues, which is evidence of society's humane spirit and continuous moral progress," Zhang Yue, a television talk show host and social activist, told Xinhua News Agency.

In 2018, the Year of the Dog by the Chinese lunar calendar, the first animal ambulance for strays on the Chinese mainland went into operation. It was funded by more than 8,000 Chinese citizens in a Kickstarter-like project proposed by local charity TA Foundation.

So far, the animal ambulance has provided emergency services for more than 1,000 stray animals around the country, including the resident cat population-affectionately nicknamed the "Palace Kitties"-in Beijing's Forbidden City.

"Kindness and care for the defenseless has always been an essential virtue in Chinese culture," said Zhang in a lecture given at an international conference on animal welfare.

Charitable giving

In 2011, Zhang and her colleagues created the TA Foundation, China's first charitable foundation aimed at improving animal welfare across the country.

"Every winter for seven years, food and supplies are handed out to private rescuers throughout China to help shelter animals. And so, through the good Samaritans, they stay warm and well fed," said the foundation's manager, Lu Ping.

The foundation has also been playing an important role in efforts to prevent rabies, teach proper pet ownership and check on the welfare of service and assistance animals, such as earthquake rescue dogs and therapy dogs, that have saved or enriched human lives.

"In China there are more and more people joining in the cause, as they realize that to care for our animal friends benefits us humans on many levels: physical and psychological health, social harmony, ethical and moral progress … the list goes on," Zhang said at a recent gala in Beijing celebrating China's animal welfare achievements.

Empathy on campus

Over the weekend, more than 100 universities and colleges in China joined the Warm Winter on Campus activity launched by the Beijing-based Capital Animal Welfare Association and 58 Campus, a college student-targeting subsidiary of the 58 website, a major online classifieds marketplace.

A simple "like" of the initiative or a repost on social media allows students to spread the word and call on more people to care for the urban animals that coexist with humans, according to Zhang Yanyan, secretary-general of the association.

The association has been encouraging empathy among college students, delivering over 700 lectures and courses on animal welfare and environmental protection in more than 100 higher-education institutions across the country, Zhang told Xinhua.

"One of the topics most welcomed by the college students has been how to care for the stray animals that are often found on campus," she said.
"Experienced volunteers introduce the most advanced humane stray management programs to young students who want to take care of the animals."

The association also encourages students not to keep animals during their school years to avoid abandonment upon graduation.

"In a matter of a few days, there have been 3,000 'likes' collected from more than 30 universities from northeastern Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces to southwestern Guangxi, Yunnan and Sichuan, and from Xinjiang in the northwest to Fujian province in the southeast.… The respect for life has been established as an indication of civility and common sense on campus," Zhang said.

At many Chinese universities and colleges, the students have come together to apply TNR methods-trap, neuter, return-to manage the stray population and find homes for vaccinated, healthy animals that are friendly.

Yulin, a city in the southwestern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, organized its first Adoption Day event on Sunday.

More than 1,000 people participated in the seven-hour event, with music and interaction with adoption-ready cats and dogs. Volunteers and guest stars shared stories and knowledge about animal rescue.

The city has been known for its annual commercial dog meat festival in which animals were slaughtered and sold. It created considerable controversy, including condemnation from within China and abroad.

Rough journey

"It has been a rough journey to make the first Yulin Adoption Day happen, but to our surprise and joy, many people came and voiced their heartfelt support for the cause," said Ming Xiaofang, a local volunteer who helped organize the event.

A Dong, from Yulin, has been rescuing and rehoming abandoned pets from the street for many years. He said that he had not expected the positive response from the public, although he always knew there were many kind, compassionate people in the city.

For the seven cats and dogs up for adoption, a total of 26 applications were submitted, plus another 22 from people who wanted to join the Adoption Day team as volunteers.

"World, watch Yulin," wrote a volunteer named Hu Li on the message board at the event, above the event slogan: "Together we build a city of love and harmony."

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