Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Penghu's stray animals payout prompts boycott

'HORRIBLE SYSTEM' Amid a Facebook group's call for a tourism boycott, Penghu County said its reward system was compensation for animal catchers’ labor

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Facebook group has gathered nearly 2,000 members in less than a week to boycott tourism in Penghu County over a county policy that gives out cash to people who catch stray animals.

According to information released by the Penghu County Government's Agriculture and Fisheries Bureau, residents on the smaller islands in the county may be paid NT$400 for catching a dog that weighs more than 5kg, NT$200 for each dog under 5kg and NT$100 for each cat as wages for the labor.

The announcement quickly drew criticism from many.

“The worst part of the policy is that anyone can catch cats and dogs in exchange for cash. This kind of rewarding system is horrible,” Shen Yi-fan, creator of the Facebook group, said on its page.

Shen is an amateur photographer who takes pictures of cats around the country.

After being bombarded with criticism, the county government explained in a written statement that stray dogs pose a serious threat to residents as they may attack children in remote villages in the county.

“When such incidents happened in the past, residents would report them to the county government, and the county government would dispatch professional dog catchers to catch them,” the statement said. “However, since dog catchers often had to travel to the smaller islands by boat, the process was inefficient.”

“Hence, we are asking local residents to obtain cages from local township or village offices to catch harmful stray dogs, and then turn them in to the county government,” it said.

The statement added that money paid to residents who catch dogs are not meant to be rewards, but rather to compensate them for their labor.

However, Wu Shuang-tse (吳雙澤), who runs a homestay in the county, questioned whether stray dogs pose such a serious threat to locals.

“There may be one or two cases [of attacks by stray dogs] in a year or so, but it’s not really that big a problem. I think the county government is exaggerating the issue,” Wu said.

“Stray dogs and cats wander around villages, and villagers or tourists would give them food, so they seldom attack humans because the animals and humans are actually like partners — and this harmonious relationship has existed in Penghu for a long time,” Wu said.

Yen Chiang-lung (顏江龍), a resident of Penghu and co-Webmaster of an online forum to promote local tourism, said catching stray animals would not solve the problem.

“It may be a more effective measure to solve the problem if the county government spends the money to neuter the dogs rather then giving it to people who catch dogs,” he said.

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