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Release of animal shelter locations raises concerns

(China Daily)

13:23, February 20, 2013

A dog waits to be picked at an adoption event for stray cats and dogs in Huangpu district in Shanghai in September.(China Daily/ Yong Kai)

A map marking shelters for stray cats and dogs in Shanghai has raised concerns among animal rescuers that more homeless animals could be dumped at the homes.

Gao Haibo and Guo Pei, both students from the College of Civil Engineering of Shanghai Normal University, drew the map marking nine places that care for stray cats and dogs after visiting six of the shelters in January.

Gao, a sophomore, said they intended to investigate living conditions of the abandoned creatures and pet adoption procedures at the shelters.

"We hoped that the map could guide animal lovers to find the right place to feed or adopt homeless cats and dogs or do voluntary work," he said.

The two young men are both volunteers with IdogIcat, an animal-care volunteer group, and they regularly help clean the cat shelter and walk the dogs.

The Homeless Cats and Dogs Asylums Map, published in early February by Xinmin Evening News in Shanghai, concerns many animal rescue groups.

Wang Jianjun, founder of a non-profit animal rescue shelter Homelessta, strongly opposes the map. The location of her rescue base is on the map, which makes her feel very uneasy.

"They (the two students) underestimated the negative impact of the map because they have not been involved in this field for a long time, but for us, we have learned our lesson," Wang said.

Wang, who is in her 60s, has been devoted to rescuing homeless dogs and cats for decades. "Over the years, we have insisted on not publishing our address on the Internet and continually ask visitors not to publish our address," Wang said.

"Litters of puppies have been dumped at our gate. We definitely will save them, but we are not capable of receiving too many abandoned animals," she said.

Wang's shelter is supported by donations and volunteers. The 100-square-meter rescue base houses about 80 dogs and cats.

"A 5-sq-m room accommodates, at best, six dogs, which has been rather crowded. The newcomers squeeze into the living space of existing animals, and the crowded conditions may cause dogs to catch infectious diseases," she said.

Li Yan, from Paw Pals Animal Rescue, a shelter founded in 2007 by a group of individual animal rescuers, had similar concerns, although it was not located on the map.

"The name of the map is misleading. People may think they can send feral cats to rescue bases and some irresponsible pet owners would desert their pets here, but we cannot accept them endlessly," she said.

Paw Pals Animal Rescue, which has rescued more than 300 homeless kittens and cats, only publishes a vague address online and checks the information of those who want to visit and adopt cats.

Wang and Li say the rescue bases whose shelters are published may be targeted by animal traders, who steal stray cats and dogs and send them to meat markets.

Guo Pei, one of the students, admitted they had not anticipated the impact of the map and said their intention was to "encourage more people to love and care for stray animals".

The two students designed a questionnaire and interviewed 200 people in Shanghai to gauge people's attitudes toward adopting stray animals.

They found that 76.3 percent of the interviewees feel sympathetic to homeless animals but 87.8 percent would hesitate to adopt or be deterred if the adoption procedure was complicated.

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