Pet ownership is a relatively recent trend in China, and while its popularity is increasing - the knowledge required to be a responsible pet owner isn't keeping pace. And when that cute and cuddly puppy or kitten becomes too much of a burden - they end up in animal shelters run by volunteers ¨C or worse.
The International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS) organized a free and non-commercial seminar to share knowledge and information on the best practices in animal rescue and shelter management. They also focused on shelter medicine, and how to maximize successful adoptions of abandoned pets.
ICVS co-founder Frank Fan began the seminar with a talk on the mechanics of running an animal shelter. Apart from the crucially important questions of financing and funding, Frank also covered the essentials - such as the first steps to take when you introduce what is possibly a traumatized animal to the shelter community.
"You'll need to separate the sick ones from the healthy ones," he said, "You absolutely need to do this separation at the very beginning. You also need to separate the docile ones from the ones with an aggressive nature."
He says the same principles apply to running a shelter as they do to running a business and how many animals you can effectively help with the resources available.
"Using management skills to run a shelter is very important. You need to set up your goals. The question you have to think about is either the quality of care you can provide, or the quantity of animals you potentially handle."
Frank then passed the baton over to visiting American vet Zenithson Ng who offered valuable insights into infectious disease control, and the always difficult and heartbreaking subject of humane euthanasia.
He admits there is a lot that needs to be done to improve services here in China.
Zenithson says any improvement in animal welfare in China begins with the relationship an owner has with their pet.
"The human-animal bond really has to take place as part of the culture here in China. People really have to value their animals. They have to have them as part of their families, as part of their children, as part of their loved ones, to really understand the human-animal bond, and put these animals on a pedestal, and realize they are more than just animals. They are companions. "
Mary Peng, another co-founder of ICVS, was next on the microphone to share her experience and explain the process of Trap, Neuter and Release ¨C otherwise known as TNR. Mary explained that TNR is a viable, cost effective and humane way of controlling the stray and feral cat populations in Beijing and other cities around China.
The seminar was interactive, with participants able to put their questions to the experts, and share some of their own experiences in operating animal shelters.
"I think I saw hope in our nation's dog or pet culture," said animal shelter operator Jin Yu. "There are so many people taking it seriously, and so many kind people who are concerned about this issue. This concern, together with the implementation of an animal protection law in China, will have a major impact to push things forward."
Meanwhile, Xie Zheng, founder of Don¡¯t Eat Friends said he was delighted to attend and see the seminar being run by a professional team.
"In this way, we, as teams that promote animal protection can learn a lot of professional knowledge that we normally had no access to. "
Frank and Mary were delighted with the turnout and the positive reaction of the participants.
"We were unbelievably pleased at the response, at the turnout," Mary said, "We had groups contacting us from Jinan, from Harbin, from Tianjin, from Shenzhen, Xiamen, Guangzhou, all these different provinces. So we realized that we had really struck a chord with the community, with all of these groups, all these individuals that are trying to do their best."
Mary said part of their mission at ICVS is community service, providing the information and support for people and their pets ¨C and when things don¡¯t work out, they offer consultation to the groups and individuals who operate rescue and shelter services.
"The primary mission is basically to try to help provide accurate, relevant and fact-based information in terms of being able to help so many organizations that are here, or trying to do good," she said. ¡°How to more effectively create a shelter system. How to more effectively prevent infectious diseases. How to set up some processes and structure, or organization to help things run smoother."
With pet ownership becoming more popular - or rather fashionable - the problem of pet abandonment is huge and growing.
And Mary said a significant number of animals are being dumped by foreigners when their contracts in China come to an end.
"We get lots of calls and lots of emails from families that say 'hey, we are moving to such and such country, and we cannot take our pets with us.' And this is one of the leading causes of abandonment among the international community as the owners simply cannot or will not take the animals with them when they relocate."
Responsible ownership of domestic animals is a core message of ICVS ¨C so if you are considering getting a puppy or a kitten, you should take time and pause for thought. If you are unsure if you can handle the responsibility, then don¡¯t get a pet - it is that simple.
Traditional Guqin The guqin, a seven-stringed plucked zither, is China's oldest stringed instrument.
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