Tue, May 05, 2009 - Page 4 News List

COMMUNITY COMPASS: SPCA: British expat’s new animal project

CRITTER KINDNESS Sean McCormack hopes to raise awareness of how to humanely treat creatures great and small by garnering support for a national chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

By Celia Llopis-jepsen  /  STAFF REPORTER

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For British expatriate Sean McCormack, founding Animals Taiwan was just one step in improving the lot of Taiwan’s critters, but he has no intention of stopping there.

McCormack’s new pet project is a Taiwanese chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and the goal is tackling animal welfare problems at their root.

“Animals Taiwan was started more than four years ago now because I was tired of seeing animals in the streets. I knew there were people like me who wanted to help them but couldn’t do so individually, so we started Animals Taiwan,” McCormack said in an interview with the Taipei Times.

Since then, the organization has rescued hundreds of strays and launched outreach efforts to inspire more people to adopt abandoned animals rather than purchase from a pet industry that has long come under fire for putting profits before animal welfare.

“We were very lucky,” McCormack said of the success of Animals Taiwan. “As soon as we started it we got a lot of support. And within a year we had our own rescue shelter in Shilin [Taipei].”

Today the organization has paid staff, hundreds of volunteers and a board of directors. Animals Taiwan, like the animals it rescues, is thriving, and McCormack has moved on. He now envisions a second organization to complement the work of Animals Taiwan: the Taiwan SPCA.

McCormack said that Animals Taiwan is a great tool not only for rescuing and “re-homing” animals, but also for focusing public attention on the stray problem. But strays are just one of many animal welfare issues, he said. Much work remains in promoting the spaying/neutering and humane treatment of pets and mistreatment of other animals goes largely ignored.

“But it’s difficult to pull resources [at Animals Taiwan] away from all the emergencies you’re getting every single day: a dog in a trap in Wulai, a dog hit by a car in Taipei. It’s difficult to say, well let’s leave that dog” and branch out the organization’s work, McCormack said.

That’s where a local chapter of the international campaign organization SPCA comes in. McCormack’s focus for the project is entirely “non-hands on” work such as campaigning.

The goal is to prevent animals from ending up “in these horrific situations in the first place,” McCormack said.

This means increasing the rate of spaying and neutering, for one — one of the international SPCA’s key campaigns.

“We can have a huge effect,” he said. “If we start promoting the neutering of pets and we do it properly, that alone can prevent thousands of animals being rescued in the first place.”

McCormack says Taiwan’s SPCA will launch its Web site, taiwanspca.org, within weeks. With proper promotion, he hopes the SPCA — like Animals Taiwan did — will hit the ground running.

Another goal of the Taiwan SPCA will be promoting enforcement of the law. McCormack praised the country’s animal welfare legislation, but said there was a gap between the letter of the law and implementation.

“If you call the police and [report a case of an animal being underfed and kept in a tiny cage] nothing will happen, because the law isn’t specific enough. That is something we definitely want to address,” he said.

There is a need for clearer regulations on what constitutes humane treatment and for better enforcement, McCormack said.

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