Fri, Dec 09, 2011 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Nightmarish animal shelters

I lived in Taiwan for the greater part of the past six years and have recently returned to Canada. During my time in Taiwan I visited the Taoyuan County government shelter a number of times (“Animal advocates hold protest,” Dec. 5, page 2). Each trip shocked and horrified me. I continue to have nightmares and will never stop advocating for Taiwan’s dogs.

My first visit to the shelter was about two years ago when my favorite street dog went missing. The outer grounds were fairly pleasant and the building where adoptable dogs were kept was respectable; however, when I couldn’t find the dog I was looking for, they invited me to check the back buildings. These buildings consisted of rows of dogs put into cells with five or more other dogs, many of them in terrible medical condition. Paws stretched out to me through the filthy cages, many with no clean water and only one food bowl to be shared among them. Hundreds of dogs were crying, barking, fighting, after being put in what I can only describe as hell.

I managed to find the dog I was searching for in the very last row, though my nightmare was only beginning. Wesley’s first vet visit turned out fine, but after one week he started showing signs of illness; coughing, bloody stool, runny nose. Wesley was diagnosed with canine distemper, a deadly virus that is highly contagious, with an extremely low rate of recovery. Treatment is expensive and usually only manages symptoms temporarily. Wesley miraculously survived the distemper, a rare case, but my own dog that was in contact with him did not.

After that, I continued to visit the Taoyuan shelter. Dogs that I saw being tested for distemper, already showing clear signs, were left in the intake area next to puppies and other dogs being adopted out. We tried to explain to the staff that dogs testing positive for distemper need to be quarantined, but no one would listen. The doberman we were looking to rescue tested positive for distemper, but we weren’t allowed to take him to get medical attention, because someone had put a hold on him, so he was put back in his cage with two other dogs. I was later told that someone did take him, but that he died from distemper a month later.

These are not “sound” conditions as stated by Hsu Kuei-sen (許桂森), head of the Animal Husbandry Department,

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease and should not be taken lightly in any shelter. It is a miracle if any dog that isn’t vaccinated can come out without contracting it. Shelter staff are so eager to adopt dogs out that they undermine the severity of the illness and how contagious it is for any dog that comes in contact with it. In total, I rescued, or attempted to rescue, seven dogs from the shelter, four of them died from canine distemper.

It is time for the government to recognize this problem and make serious changes to the conditions of their shelters. Taiwanese people and the global community in support of animal welfare will no longer ignore this cruelty and neglect.

Larisa Duravetz

Toronto, Canada

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