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The Story of the Zhonghe Animal Shelter

In Taiwan, the issue of homeless animals has been a cause for concern for many years, and even in the capital city of Taipei, stray dogs and cats are a common sight. Taiwan saw a rise in abandoned animals during the 1980’s, during a time of economic growth. Residents who were uninformed of the responsibilities that comes with raising a pet, eventually abandoned said animals on the streets. Today, we have invited Godfrey Gao, a Taiwanese-Canadian actor, model and humanitarian, to interview the Director of the Animal Epidemic Prevention Center. The setting is at the Zhonghe Animal Shelter, a place that has truly become a haven for stray dogs in recent years.

Operating under the government of New Taipei City, Zhonghe Animal Shelter seeks to provide unwanted dogs with the safest and best care they can afford. Upon entering their care, every animal will be given vaccination, a health screening, de-worming, microchip implantation, and are spayed or neutered. Depending on their gender, male dogs will receive a mark on the left ear, while females are marked on the right ear. Once the process is finished, these dogs are ready for adoption.

While there are other breeds at the animal shelter, their stay is never long since they get adopted rather swiftly, leaving the shelter with a 90% majority of the Formosan Mountain Dog, or more simply known as, Taiwanese Dog. The characteristics of the Taiwanese dog breed include a triangular face, agile feet that are known for their hopping skill, and a sickle tail. The personality of the Formosan is loyal, intelligent, affectionate and understanding. “These dogs are suited for being hunting or search dogs, so the current feeding rate for these dogs is quite high. We mainly have black ones, but we also have brown and yellow ones,” says the Director.

Currently, most, if not all the dogs at the Shelter have been desexed. This ‘zero-kill’ plan started on the 1st of March last year, under the guidance of the mayor of New Taipei City, Zhu Li Luen. However, the Director says the problem has to be cut at the source. Instead of the reactive measures that have been implemented so far, the country is in need of a more three-dimensional, proactive plan in order to see results. “We cannot keep taking in new animals indefinitely”, says the Director, “we have a set capacity of furry friends we can take in, if it’s too crowded the dogs won’t have space to run around and play”. Hence why they neuter the stray dogs that are taken in, to prevent the Shelter from becoming a breeding ground, and in hopes that the number of strays will decrease within the next 50 years.

“So how can we help?” asks Godfrey, eager to jump into action. “We give a two-hour life education course to anyone who wishes to adopt our little furry friends,” the Director replies, his tone serious. While it should be obvious that raising an animal or pet is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, these educational courses are absolutely necessary. Taiwan is facing this stray animal problem solely because residents have tried to take the easy way out and dispose of their pets when it became too much of a headache to raise them. The Director wishes to impart a message to all who want to adopt or raise a dog: “We must think calmly and clearly of the responsibility we have to our dog. It takes time and financial means to raise a pet - whether it’s feeding, grooming, or if they get sick. We welcome anyone who would like to bring our animals home - even if it’s for a trial period, you can take them home for a few days...feel free to bring him back if you can’t handle it, as long as you don’t leave him out on the street”.