FEATURE: Number of abandoned dogs climbs

By Wally Santana  /  AP , TAIPEI

Sun, Nov 02, 2008 - Page 2

It’s not just people worrying about losing their homes amid the global economic downturn. Now, even canines face being dumped from their dog houses.

Coinciding with the local stock market plunge and a jump in the unemployment rate, animal rescuers say more and more dogs are being abandoned as owners look for ways to cut expenses.

Taking note of the problem, authorities in Taipei are trying to keep better track of dogs and their owners in a bid to prevent abandonment.

Tiger Tung (董冠富), chief executive of the Taiwan Life Caring and Animal Rescue Organization, said his group has seen a marked increase in the number of dogs it has treated since the downturn began, especially larger breeds.

He said in the last three months his organization saved about 30 large-sized strays, including Old English sheepdogs and golden retrievers, compared with 10 in the three previous months.

“Big dogs tend to be thrown away during a slowing economy,” Tung said, adding that owners can save between NT$5,000 and NT$10,000 a month by abandoning them.

Taiwan has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, with the local stock index plummeting 46 percent from its peak in May and unemployment jumping to 4.27 percent in September.

Chen Wen-mei, a 44-year-old Buddhist who runs a private shelter in Linkou (林口), said many people are reluctant to spend the money to care for their dogs when they themselves are feeling the economic pinch.

She said she took in about 17 dogs in one week last month.

Yen I-feng (嚴一峰), director of the Taipei Municipal Institute for Animal Health, said city authorities are now strictly enforcing a law requiring dog owners to have their pets implanted with microchips.

The microchips allow authorities to trace abandoned dogs back to their owners.

Yen said those caught abandoning their pets are subject to a fine of NT$15,000.

Chen keeps about 300 dogs in her 600m² shelter, a gritty, tin-roofed building littered with plastic containers for food and drinking water.

“The dogs have their rights and have lives, too. It’s just that they cannot talk,” she said as she petted some nearby dogs.