Thu, Jun 10, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Collection of strays inhumane: activists

INHUMANEAnimal rights activists criticized the methods local governments use to round up stray dogs. They currently use garbage collectors to catch stray animals

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The methods local governments use to round up stray dogs are inhumane and in some cases even amount to torture, animal rights activists said yesterday.

The activists urged the Council of Agriculture (COA) to use professionally trained animal control officers to handle stray animals.

“Government authorities should stop regarding stray animals as ‘trash’ and train professional animal control officers like in many other countries to handle stray animals,” Environmental and Animal Society of Taiwan director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) told a news conference. “After all, the Animal Protection Act [動物保護法] says that it is there to promote respect and protection of animals.”

Right now, waste collectors are responsible for catching stray animals in most counties and cities. In certain townships in Chiayi, Penghu and Taoyuan counties, local authorities even give out cash awards to anyone who catches stray dogs or cats alive.

Video clips played at the press conference showed waste collectors indiscriminately using ropes to catch dogs and dragging them — sometimes backwards — onto trucks. The dogs are then pushed into small cages; some dogcatchers use chicken cages that are apparently too small for large dogs.

When the trucks arrive at animal shelters, which are dirty and crowded, the dogcatchers “unload” the dogs by putting a rope around the dogs’ necks to pull them out of the cages and drop them on the ground, activists said.

“Most dogcatchers do not wear uniforms, so if you see people trying to catch stray dogs on the street, you wouldn’t know if they are on official business or restaurant owners who are trying to cook these dogs,” Chen said.

Consuming dog or cat meat is banned by the Animal Protection Act.

Kaohsiung City Stray Animals Association chairwoman Wang Chun-chin (王春金) said the organization’s volunteers once found an elderly man in Chiayi who caught several small dogs and two big dogs but only turned in the small dogs to the local government office for cash awards.

“We investigated for over a week, but none of the responsible government agencies or shelters received the big dogs — so we suspect they were sent to restaurants instead,” Wang said.

Taichung Universal Animal Protection Association chairwoman Huang Pi-chu (黃璧珠) said that improving protection to stray animals is not only about the animals, “but would enrich the humanitarian spirit of the nation as a whole.”

Shocked by the video, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said she would propose amendments to the act to require professionally trained animal control officers to conduct dog-catching assignments and to ban non-professionals from catching stray animals for the government.

Head of the COA’s Animal Protection Section Lin Tsung-yi (林宗毅) said he agrees with most of the points the activists raised.

“However, handling stray animals falls under the jurisdiction of local governments. We will recommend that they hire professional animal control officers,” Lin said.

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