You may have come across my story on how I adopted my dog Zeus while I was in China. If you haven't, trust me it's worth the read! Since I found Zeus, I've gotten a lot more information on how to save dogs in China and now I'm here to share that info with you! Once you have moved to China, you'll start to notice not only how many friends have adopted a cat or dog, but also how few animal shelters there are. Given the prevalence of animal cruelty in puppy mills, it's a no-brainer to adopt and not shop. But exactly how can you help save dogs in China? Let's dive in.
Pet Shelters in China
First thing's first - pet shelters. There aren't really a whole lot of animal rescue shelters around the country and there are no official ones as there are no government regulations centered on animal protection. All pet shelters that you will come across are completely operated by volunteers! The best way to help save the furry friends here is honestly to donate when or if you can. They provide all kinds of life saving operations on the dogs and cats that they have rescued and often have to resort to paying out of pocket. Remember, these are volunteer-led operations, so no one is paying them.
A lot of the animal rescue shelters in China kind of run on the low and don't spread their information widely. I'm not too familiar with the why, but have heard that technically they're illegal to run in the country. While I am not entirely sure of the legalities, I think that another explanation could be that their resources are spread thin since they are relying on their own funds plus whatever donations they can get.
The Urgency of China's Dog Meat Trade
We've all heard the running gag/stereotype that people in China eat dog meat. China's dog and cat meat trade has long been a contentious issue, drawing attention internationally. However, having lived in China for five years as well as having visited 19 out of the 34 provinces I can truthfully say that dog meat is not widely eaten. And before you hit me with the "but what if they're lying about it, how would you know?" I speak and read Chinese and when dog meat is on the menu, it's just written (I've only ever come across one place in Kunming that had it). If you think about it, they have no reason to hide it since it's not exactly frowned upon. In China, meat is meat.
So while, I've been warned about random people swooping in out of nowhere to steal your pets and taking them away in dog meat trucks to be sold for meat, I can't say I've ever once seen one of these trucks. Now that doesn't mean they don't exist, I just don't think there's much need to worry about them.
On the other hand, there are government-run vehicles that round up stray dogs to be put down and if your dog is not registered (required by law) or is off leash (also required by law), you also run the risk of having your pet taken by one of these vehicles.
How You Can Help Save Dogs in China?
There are so many dogs left behind in China and while it is impossible to help them all, there are many ways that you can contribute! Whether by directly assisting dog rescue organizations or by adopting one of the numerous street dogs, every effort counts in the grand scheme of things.
Adopting or Fostering a Dog in China
The first and probably most obvious way to save one (or maybe even two or three!) of the many China dogs is to adopt or foster and provide strays with loving homes. Assuming you already live in the country, it will be extremely easy to get into contact with dog rescuers or dog rescue organizations via wechat groups. If you don't want to make a lifetime commitment, being a foster is a great option! There are plenty of adult dogs looking to live out their final years with a caring owner as well as puppies needing short-term care until they find their forever homes. Foster families act as their safe haven during this in-between period.
If, like me, you wind up choosing to adopt a pup, these same organizations will be extremely helpful in walking you through the steps (especially if, also like me, this is your first time being a pet owner). A lot of times they will even help you out with covering the initial vaccinations so the burden isn't entirely on you in the early stages of adoption. Unlike in the states, there isn't typically an adoption fee involved which is a major plus.
Once you adopt a dog, make sure you get it registered, otherwise you run the risk of having your pup taken by local police. The last thing you want to do is draw the attention of law enforcement, especially if you're a foreigner.
Donating to a Local Rescue Group
As mentioned earlier, local rescuers usually stay low key so I won't be sharing names, but if you reach out to me I am more than happy to put you in contact with the appropriate groups!
These organizations are often the only hope for strays and are completely volunteer-led, so your donations go a long way to the cause. Funds go towards neutering and spaying strays so that there are fewer of them out on the streets in the long run, medical costs for pups with urgent medical needs, vaccinations for puppies, rehabilitating dogs, and so much more.
Becoming a Flight Volunteer
Animal lovers worldwide are stepping up and a lot of people are adopting these innocent dogs and giving them a second chance at life. Flight volunteers (FV) act as the bridge between the dogs' past in China and their future in a new country like the United States, Germany, France, you name it. As a flight volunteer, your role is to ensure that rescued dogs reach their foster homes or new families. Being an FV is such a great way to make an impact while taking minimal effort. Truly all you have to do is book a flight and the rescue organization will take care of the rest (they will match you with a dog that needs to go where you are going - there are plenty).
International rescue gets complicated but rest assured that FVs are not responsible for any paperwork the dog needs to get on the flight - everything is arranged ahead of time. All you have to do is show up at the airport, meet the rescuer and pick up the pet. The dog will get checked in as normal (unless they're small enough to fly in cabin) and upon landing, their forever family will be there ready to meet you and pick them up! They go on to start their new lives and you carry on to your destination.
Following covid, there has been an increase in demand for FVs so in many instances you can actually have your flight costs covered! All for a great cause. Truly a win-win for everyone involved.
Becoming a Rescuer/Volunteer
If the above options aren't right for you, don't worry because they are not the only way you can help. You can become a volunteer and help local shelters whether it be to fundraise and garner widespread support via social media or take the rescues out for playtime in your spare time. If you know that you will be in China for a long time and you have the bandwidth to commit to volunteering long term, this can be the option for you.
There is no shortage of ways to help save dogs in China. Whether you choose to adopt and let a rescue or two spend the rest of their lives with you or donate to a nonprofit organization, one thing is for certain - you will be making a huge impact in their lives.
I know that I can say adopting a dog in China and adding Zeus as a new member to my family is one of the best things that I have done!