Wed, Mar 28, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Freewheeling canines

With euthanasia a common practice used on sick or injured animals, two private shelters in Taiwan are trying to show that disabled dogs can live happy lives with proper care and customized wheelchairs

By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter


The quality of life for the shelter’s disabled dogs has been boosted by customized wheelchairs they’ve sourced from a maker in Yilan. Three times a day, they are lifted from their cribs and put into the wheelchairs that allow most of them to run at full speed. They dig holes, scurry around, socialize and fight with each other like they were never injured.

“Even if they can’t run, it’s okay,” Yen says. “At least the wheelchair can get them enough exercise so that their muscles don’t atrophy. Even if they’re just out there getting some sun, it helps just to have them support their body weight.”

Recently, The PACK Sanctuary in New Taipei City’s Sanchih District (三芝) reached out to the shelter under its new directive to collaborate with more animal welfare organizations. PACK has six disabled dogs who have been sitting in a room for years with little rehabilitation. Yen gave them tips on caring for the dogs and donated a wheelchair for them to try.

While some dogs were hesitant, Lucy, who has been disabled for about two years, took to the wheelchair right away and is now the mascot for the shelter during their public events. She’s also shown signs of regaining the use of her legs after acupuncture and physical therapy.

“Everything has changed about her, even her stool,” the PACK CEO Tim Gorski says. “She had diarrhea for two years. I didn’t even change her diet; I just put her in a wheelchair and she got some exercise.”

Even though people fawn over Lucy wherever she goes, Gorski doesn’t expect her to be adopted.

“I think she’s up for adoption to the right person,” he says. “Probably someone who’s retired, who knows about care for animals or people and who have a lot of time and energy.”


Lucy’s story is what Yen is trying to prevent — once she got hit by a car, her owner didn’t know how to take care of her and took her to a government shelter. She was rescued the day before her scheduled euthanasia.

“People should treat them as they would a member of their family,” Yen says. “If something happened [to the human member of a family], they wouldn’t just give up on them like that.”

As for preventive measures, Yen encourages dog owners to keep their best friend on a leash.

Gorski says that another problem is people hitting dogs and driving away because they’re not sure what to do. The sooner the dog gets help, the better the chance they have to walk again. Dogs tend to move after they get hit, and even if the driver calls animal rescue, they won’t come out without an exact location.

“If possible, get out there and do the same thing you would for a person,” Gorski says. Throw a blanket on the dog to calm it down, then wrap it up and bring it to a veterinarian, or at least to the side of the road and wait for animal rescue to arrive.

“The best thing to do is to keep a blanket in your car,” Gorski says. “Get them off the road first, then decide what to do from there.”

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