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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

cultural cruelty & a personal mission

Taiwan has treated us so well over the past five years, but that does not mean that Taiwan treats everyone well. My biggest beef with Taiwan is the rampant animal cruelty and indifference that permeates every city, town, and village as well as every beach and mountain on this small island.

I make no secret of the fact that I am an animal lover, especially when it comes to canines. It is fair to say that I am obsessed with my dog Bubu, and that I earnestly think that all dogs deserve safe, loving homes. 

On this issue, most Taiwanese people and I do not see eye to eye as I have found the average local to be scared of dogs and completely unmoved by the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of stray dogs that live and die in their neighborhoods and parks. 

Here are some sickening statistics about the problem:
  • Fewer than 10 percent of Taiwanese households have dogs; in comparison, nearly 40 percent of American households do
  • The number of stray dogs being intentionally killed by local Taiwanese people increased dramatically in 2013 after rabies were reintroduced to the island by a local ferret population; most Taiwanese kill the dogs by poisoning them
  • Previously, only 18 percent of dogs from government run shelters are adopted; 72 percent are "euthanized", although that can simply mean letting them die from starvation or disease. Now, the government has banned euthanasia, so the shelters are even more overcrowded and dogs are still dying at alarming rates from starvation and disease 
  • The Taiwanese government states that there are 130,000 stray dogs living on the island, but animals activists place the number at a staggering 600,000+ 
  • It is common for Taiwanese people to adopt a puppy and then abandon it in the mountains or at a park when it grows bigger 
  • Until very recently, it was legal to eat dog meat, so many locals, especially in the south, killed stray dogs for that purpose 
From an outsider's perspective, the most confusing aspect of this entire situation is the steadfast refusal almost everyone shows to do anything about this problem. It is painfully obvious that the majority of Taiwanese people find stray dogs to be a complete nuisance, but they also fail on a spectacular level to do a single thing to address the problem. 

Taking the first steps to begin the process of solving this problem is not rocket science, especially because so many other countries have tackled this same exact issue effectively, and simple keyword searches on the Internet can offer a plethora of possible remedies to try.  

For example: 

Taiwan could ban the selling of dogs and penalize anyone caught breeding so rescuing from shelters is the only avenue for pet ownership. Taiwan could also offer incentives for veterinary practices to begin spay-and-release programs. The country could also offer pet ownership education and fine negligent owners or owners who abandon their pets. 

It is not fair for me to say that all Taiwanese people are indifferent to these poor creatures and their very real suffering as I have found a handful of privately run non-profit organizations that rescue Taiwan's stray dogs -- in fact, we adopted Bubu from one. Bubu used to be a stray dog living in the mountains with his six siblings. Today, all seven dogs have homes, six in America and Bubu with us in Taiwan. It breaks my heart to think that if someone hadn't come across Bubu and felt compelled to help him, he wouldn't be snoring and sprawled out on my couch today.

With that in mind, I have made it my personal mission to at least try to do something, and I am a very motivated person when I set my mind to something. 

Near my apartment is Lake Placid. Since I first moved here five years ago, there has been a steady pack of stray dogs living on a grassy hill by the lake. Occasionally, I will see a local bring a bag of food to feed the dogs, but more often than not, the dogs go hungry and thirty for days on end. I have also fed the dogs our scraps, which causes so many locals and even my expat friends & colleagues to give me flak. Ultimately, their messages are the same. They think that the animals should just die so they don't survive long enough to breed and make more stray dogs. 

Personally, I find that cruel and sickening-- but I am my father's daughter through and through, and he became a vegetarian because he loved animals so much and found the meat industry inhumane and worth boycotting. 

I have reached out to various rescues in Taiwan to see if any of them can help this pack of 10-15 dogs. Many of the non-profits are small and cannot accommodate so many dogs at once; however, some are suggesting that if five smaller rescues each take two or three dogs, maybe they can help after all, so I am now in the process of trying to organize a rescue effort between a lot of people, most of whom do not speak English well. 

I know a lot of people here think my actions are silly. After all, helping this one pack won't solve the problem or prevent new dogs from taking their place on the slopes of the lake, but I say to them: it's better to do something small than nothing at all because I am not the only one doing so, and with many people's small efforts, a big impact can be had on at least some of these poor creatures' lives. 

Plus, I would rather teach my daughter that she can make a difference with small actions rather than sit back and do nothing because she is powerless against a greater problem, and I would wager that for a dog like Bubu that once lived as a beggar on the street, that one person, whoever he or she is, made a huge difference in his life, and I would really like to pay that forward. 

If any expat is looking to donate money or adopt, check out these Taiwanese non-profits: Guardian Angels International Rescue (GAIR), Mary's Doggies, Gone to the Dogs,  The Pack Sanctuary, and Animals Taiwan. If any readers abroad want to help or adopt, you can too! Many of these rescues adopt out their animals to American families! 

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