Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 13 News List

Animals Taiwan shares the love

Foreigners who started out saving the occasional dog off the street have now moved on to running an officially recognized charity that attracts Taiwanese volunteers with its emphasis on improving animal welfare through education

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Scenes from Animal Taiwan's rescue center in Shilin. The charity's volunteers believe education is the best way toward creating a better environment for animals in Taiwan.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANIMALS TAIWAN

The two-story house down a rough turnoff from a side road in Taipei’s Shilin District looks ordinary enough, until you take in the tall wire fence and double gate with a clearing area in between. The sound of dogs barking announces that I have arrived at the right place — the Animals Taiwan rescue center.

When I’d called to make an appointment, Sean McCormack, the founder of this animal rescue operation, said I would not find their address posted on their otherwise highly informative Web site. “If we did that, we would find people dumping unwanted dogs here,” he said.

Earlier this month, Animals Taiwan was granted NPO, or non-profit organization, status by Taiwan’s government. Becoming an officially recognized charity opens many doors that had been closed to the organization before, and considerably enhances its ability to raise funds. But it will also bring its share of challenges.

Speaking to the Taipei Times in the weeks before the situation became official, Lisa Milne, an English teacher who also acts as treasurer to the organization, said: “It will make a lot of difference — for one thing, everything will have to be done by the book. There may be some things that we won’t be able to do [anymore].”

The point of departure for Animals Taiwan, as with other animal rescue organizations around Taiwan such as Taichung Paws and Bark, a group based in Kaohsiung, is a love of animals and a desire to not see them destroyed. This has sometimes put them outside official sanction, especially in their emphasis on CNR (catch, neuter, return), in which animals are neutered and put back onto the street. This idea is only gradually catching on among Taiwan’s official animal welfare organizations. (CNR is now accepted practice for stray cats, but is technically illegal for stray dogs.)

On the Net

Animals Taiwan: animalstaiwan.org

Taichung Paws: www.taichungpaws.org

Bark: www.atkaohsiung.org

Taipei Municipal Animal Shelter: www.tapv.org.tw


For many years, foreigners, either as individuals or groups, have sought to contribute to animal welfare in Taiwan without stepping on too many toes. Animals Taiwan is the first of these organizations, notable because they have significant foreigner participation, to seek and receive NPO status. As McCormack and other foreigners interviewed for this story were all keen to emphasize, they constitute only a tiny fraction of people, both among government organizations and private individuals, who care deeply about animal welfare in Taiwan.

“But we know from speaking with other organizations here that we still need to raise standards here [in Taiwan]. Many of the people involved in animal welfare here haven’t got an international perspective, an idea of what they could be achieving. ... They know they’ve got a problem and they are trying to fix it the best way they know how, but there are better ways of doing it. We are able to get more international interest because we are half expat, half local, and we know the [international] standards we should be aiming for,” McCormack said.

“A lot of us come from countries [where] the stray population isn’t what it is in Taiwan, and a lot of us have worked for organizations outside Taiwan, and so we can say, look, this has been done in this country or that country, and it worked, so we want to bring it in and help this country,” Milne said.

Taiwan has received a lot of bad press over the years because of its problem with abandoned pets, but now a considerable network of shelters has been established around the country. Unfortunately, the environment of these shelters is often less than ideal.

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