During a conversation about the treatment of animals in China some time ago, I remember a friend saying, “what rights are animals going to have in a country that is still working out the rights of humans?” Anyone that’s ever been to a zoo in China knows just how true this is.
Fortunately, like all things in China, this is changing. Helping along that change in Shanghai is an altruistic group of volunteer animal rescuers called Jaiya’s Animal Rescue, or JAR for short. The nearly year-old organization was started by a woman named Julia and her husband Marvin, who was kind enough to answer some questions for this post.
Lost Laowai: Can you tell us a bit about why you started this organization? Who is Jaiya?
Marvin: My wife and I have always saved animals here in China wherever we were (different provinces). It was last year March 2009 that we both came up with the name in loving memory of our daughter ‘Jaiya Kristina’ who unfortunately died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) on February 14th, 2009. We named the group JAR – Jaiya’s Animal Rescue.
We want to cooperate not only with foreigners, but also with the locals. We believe that with both foreign and local members working together to save animals in need (healing and finding them permanent homes), it is a good cause to be a part of.
With the Expo nearing, we can see more and more families adopting pets. Even though there are many dedicated and loving pet owners in Shanghai; education is still very much necessary to be able to provide the training, welfare, medical, nutrition, licensing and general animal pet care information to potential new pet owners.
It is also important to emphasize to people that JAR does not have a shelter or a physical address. Due to limitations of resources, we can only do so much in saving animals off the streets of Shanghai. When people rescue an animal, we ask them to help us by taking responsibility and look after the animal temporarily until we find the animal a permanent home. Unfortunately, with the lack of resources, people and funding, in some cases we have to say ‘no’. It is difficult and we do our best to help the situation.
Lost Laowai: To date JAR has adopted out more than 100 dogs and 30 cats, that must take a lot of time and commitment. What sort of help do you have? Are most volunteers expats or local Chinese?
Marvin: We rely on our local rescuers. We have approx 30-35 rescuers and it’s increasing as time goes on. We all have the animals in our homes or people who own boarding kennels kindly assist us by temporarily taking care of the animals due to ‘overflow’.
The majority of our rescuers are Chinese, however, more and more foreigners are offering support by volunteering or fostering. We have been actively involved in working with the Shanghai American School and their animal welfare program, called “Because We Care: Animal Rescue and Support Community Service Club”. It was started by teacher and JAR adopter Marney Rosen with the triple focus of educating younger students in the school, fundraising for JAR and helping out with other animal-related community ventures. We are planning to have the students come to one of our kennels and help by painting & cleaning the facility, as well as providing linen, food & pet supplies.
Lost Laowai: In your opinion, is pet abandonment a large issue in China? Why do you think such is the case?
Marvin: So far, what we have seen and in our experience, yes, pet abandonment is a large issue in China.
Animal welfare in China is not implemented the way we like compared to Europe, North America etc. We have seen so many cases where many people buy from pet stores/breeders and have no idea of how to look after the animal depending on the breed. People sometimes buy pets on impulse because the dog/cat is cute, however, they do not realize that there are responsibilities involved (medical care costs, registration for dogs etc).
Spaying & neutering animals is important to lessen the pet population. This is costly, and with donations we assist other rescuers in implementing this. There are so many stray/abandoned animals in Shanghai and with the mating season coming up we have introduced the ‘TNR Program’ (Trap, Neuter, and Release). This is a procedure where we catch ‘compound cats’ and have them neutered or spayed and released once they’re healed. Again, this all depends if we have the funding.
Adoption Profile: Calvin
Calvin is a male dog, approximately one year old. The rescuers first saw Calvin about a month ago wandering in their compound. After catching him they immediately brought him to the vets for a medical check.
He was given a clean bill of health, and been vaccinated, deflead and neutered. He is a friendly, playful, and gentle dog. He gets along well with people and other dogs. He is a little wary, but given a few days time he will warm up to you.
He would make a great addition to a family! Learn more about Calvin here.
Lost Laowai: Before adoption, all rescued animals are vaccinated, de-wormed and de-flead — those bills must add up. How does JAR support itself?
Marvin: Some of our animals that are available for adoption may unfortunately have had bad experiences living on the streets due to being abandoned, mistreated, abused, and have been traumatized (some may have various bad habits such as chewing, not housetrained etc). With the help and care from our local rescuers, and our dog trainers, the animals have recovered and are deemed adoptable.
We urge the adopter(s) to be patient, loving and committed to these ‘abandoned’ animals. It will help them lead a new life and merge with the family eventually. The build up of trust and confidence will not only be rewarding for the dog, but also for all the family.
Having the animals vaccinated, dewormed, and deflead is the minimum. We also have to ensure the animal’s disposition (character and temperament) are friendly towards people and other animals. We mainly rely on donations from people. We don’t ask for donations directly, however we make people aware that we pay everything from our own pockets to ensure the animal’s well being is taken care of. Any amount given to JAR is appreciated.
Lost Laowai: How do you find foster people for the rescued animals? Do you host events or work with any other organizations to get the word out?
Marvin: JAR tries to participate in bazaars/events in the community. We usually participate at the Christmas/Spring/Summer bazaars organized by International Schools such as Concordia, BISS, and Shanghai American School. We also participate in the local community bazaars in Seasons Villas, Vizcaya etc.
Shanghai American School also organized two “Cake Walk” fundraisers for JAR. Donations raised will go towards medical fees, transportation, boarding, desexing of animals.
We have not yet implemented or hosted an event ourselves yet. We are planning to do this once we have a location and an establishment willing to have us host our events. We are also seeking a place to hold our monthly adoption days, as we would like to hold the adoption days in Puxi & Pudong.
Currently, we post information about JAR in forums, “free” website classifieds, recommendations from existing adopters, friends and associates. The best thing so far that has worked out really well is by word of mouth. We emphasize that we are always in need of foster parents to support us due to the overwhelming amount of animals we have in our care.
Lost Laowai: Can anyone adopt an animal, or is there some sort of screening process? How do you prepare the prospective new pet owners for taking care of their new pet?
Marvin: Having a pet takes time, responsibility, compassion, patience and education. Prospective/existing families should able and be willing to spend the time and money necessary to provide medical and overall proper care for the pet. Be a responsible pet owner yourself and then share your knowledge with others. Having a pet is for life.
When a query or a phone call is received, JAR submits an Adoption Information Sheet Questionnaire document to be filled in and returned. Some questions asked are: Are potential adopters willing to pay for registering the dog every year? Is the family going to bring the animal with them when moving to another city, province, or country? Who is going to look after the animal during the day if they are out working? Are they experienced in having pets? Does the tenancy agreement allow pets in the home?
Lost Laowai: How important is the role of the foster families in the running of the organization?
Marvin: We always need more foster parents. It is a great way to have a “temporary” pet here in Shanghai if you cannot adopt, miss your own pet from home or if you want to have a furry companion in general. You get a companion and help save an animal at the same time! We would like to have foster parents for emergency cases (1-2 days) or long-term, depending on the situation, be it to foster dogs, cats, kittens, or puppies.
We are grateful to these people because it takes so much dedication, time and love. When you see a five-day old kitten or puppy survive because of our foster parents, it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment!
We also need special care foster parents who are willing to take in our sick animals. It would be ideal to have foster parents available during the holidays as sometimes our own foster parents or adopters go on holidays too (summer holidays, the October and May holidays, Christmas and Chinese New Year).
Some JAR Tips on Animal Care and Ownership in China
- It is mandatory to have dogs licensed. It is the law and it is responsible pet ownership.
- Ensure the animal get its yearly check-up and vaccinations.
- Do not leave your animal outside in the winter not unless it’s a dog with thick fur and don’t mind the cold weather, or leaving the animal basking in the heat during the summer.
- Refrain from purchasing purebreds from breeders. Adopting a mixed dog is just as good. JAR and other rescue groups have so many strays that need loving homes. Why buy animals when there are so many available for adoption or out on the streets that deserve love too?
- Find and use a reputable veterinarian. Many unlicensed doctors call themselves vets use fake or expired medicines and do not provide real, professional medical care. If you are unsure, ask your circle of friends, and colleagues or those who have pets.
- Some animals that has been bought from pet stores or breeders are sick or pumped with antibiotics to make them look healthy when they are sold but die soon after. We urge people not to go that route, as it is inhumane. Why not just adopt a rescued animal from JAR or rescue an animal you find and give them a loving home instead?
- Do not allow people be cruel to animals. It is all about education. Coming across situations like this, we would stop, try to explain animal kindness and most likely try to take the animal ourselves if someone continued to hit or abuse an animal.