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Cash-strapped animal shelter needs help

By Yang Yao  (China Daily)

10:23, February 07, 2013

Dogs in an animal shelter of the China Small Animal Protection Association in Beijing. (Provided by China Small Animal Protection Association )

One of China's best-known animal charities says it's running out of money and needs urgent help to survive, after taking to the Internet to appeal for urgent donations.

The China Small Animal Protection Association in Beijing, which is dedicated to animal welfare and rescue, was founded in 1992 by Lu Di, a retired professor of Chinese literature at Renmin University of China.

A message on its micro blog on the social networking site Sina Weibo is to the point: "We're running out of money for dog food," it says. "Please support us and save these innocent creatures."

It's a plight many similar organizations across the country also face, according to animal welfare experts.

The association's dramatic appeal comes after it opened a store on Taobao, a major e-commerce site, in November to solicit donations.

It currently houses more than 700 dogs and 500 cats at its base in the capital's northwest Haidian district.

Lu, now 82, accompanied China's former leader Mao Zedong for a year in 1975, discussing Chinese literature and poems with him.

But the retired professor says her savings and retirement pension is now being used to help the struggling animal organization, even though she is increasingly ill herself with lung cancer.

"My son and daughter live in the US and they regularly send money back to support the running of the center," added Lu.

In her efforts to save her beloved charity, Lu has also raised more than 200 street cats and dogs at her home.

"Those dogs and cats are mostly deserted pets," she added. "But now I am very sick and cannot take care of them."

Song Jinzhang, who works for the organization, said the running of the center is becoming very difficult.

"Every month we need 70,000 to 80,000 yuan ($11,230 to $12,830) just for dog food," he said.

"And that's excluding the medical treatment fees that need to be paid."

According to Song, donations from the public account for less than a third of the association's costs, and last year only around 200,000 yuan was raised from donations.

Its Taobao account has collected just 5,500 yuan since it was opened.

"Volunteers currently pay for most of what we spend," Song added.

The plight of China Small Animal Protection is becoming increasingly common in China, as charities across the country report similar drops in income.

In East China's Anhui province, Zhang Yuanyuan works as a volunteer at the Dog Industry Association's Small Animal Protection Center in the provincial capital Hefei, where money is also desperately short.

"Our organization can barely make ends meet," she said, after collecting just 150,000 yuan last year to feed about 40 dogs at the center.

"Every month it costs us more than 10,000 yuan in dog food alone.

"We can only hope for the best and that none of our dogs get sick, otherwise we cannot afford to get them treated.

"Most of our funds are currently donated by the volunteers themselves."

She added that all of the people working at the center are volunteers, one of whom is Wei Min, a 66-year-old retired factory worker who herself cares for around 200 cats and dogs, at her own home.

As the number has grown, Wei said the noise and smell has angered her neighbors, and she is running out of space to look after them.

Zhang added that the association is also helping to support Wei to buy dog food, and trying to find somewhere rent-free for her to keep her abandoned pets.

"The financial burden is very heavy, and we really hope that more people would show this kind of care and devotion to deserted animals," added Zhang.

According to Lu, of the China Small Animal Protection Association in Beijing, most pets are abandoned when they become ill.

High medical treatment fees, rising costs of open land to exercise the animals, and a lack of animal welfare regulations are the main causes of the growing predicament for animal charities, she said.

Activists have petitioned for years for appropriate legislation, without success. In 2009, draft animal welfare laws were submitted to the legislative body, but were watered down, added Lu.

In October last year a panel of legislators also proposed a ministry-level regulation to the Ministry of Agriculture, but that has still to take effect.

"These pets are our companions," Lu said, calling for greater public attention to the growing plight of organizations like hers.

"I hope in my lifetime I can see proper animal welfare legislation — that is my last wish," she added.

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