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Caring vet ensures it won't rain cats and dogs

Monday, June 4, 2012
By T.M. Fok, The China Post


The China Post--Famous male cats, such as Garfield, Felix and Tom (from “Tom and Jerry”) as well as their lesser-know friends are all dream-catchers, and so are dogs. Their dream, of course, is to “catch her,” maybe in the rye. Animals, like human beings, do have relationships and, perhaps, play the field, too, especially when they roam the streets in the heat of the night.

Cats and dogs, however, are not known to be users of birth-control devices, and when they sow wild oats, their population growth can get out of control. Unintended pregnancies, often the result of one-night stands, could have tragic consequences, including an unnecessary waste of lives and resources. There will be, at the very least, more mouths to feed.

Enter Tiger Tung (董冠富), director general of Taiwan Life Caring and Animal Rescue Organization (LCO, 社團法人台灣照顧生命照生會), who works with a team of veterinary surgeons who perform vasectomies on male cats and tubal ligation on females.

Tiger is a Big Cat with a Big Heart

The use of surgery on stray animals is nothing unusual; residents living within shouting distance of National Chengchi University in Muzha also work with veterinary surgeons in an attempt to keep the stray dog population under control, which is said to be tacitly tolerated on the university campus. Tung's ace in the hole, however, is that when he deploys his ground troops, i.e. the vets, he also sends in a mobile operating theater, complete with surgical equipment, converted from a refrigerator truck.

His use of the truck to keep the populations of stray dogs and cats under control without denying them one of their few pleasures in life is motivated by a respect for life and a realization that creatures born out-of-wedlock, with a few possible exceptions including Heathcliff, have less of a chance to succeed in life. Survivors are, more often than not, left to their own devices.

“That's already the best scenario,” Tiger Tung, whose first name reminds us of a famous two-timing golfer as well one of the biggest cats, told The China Post in a recent interview, saying the procedures do not pertain to outright sterilization.

“While the government deploys dog catchers, or even cat catchers, to round up stray animals, they give them a month in the pound before euthanizing them, that is, if no one is willing to adopt them,” he explained, adding that he sees birth control by surgery as the only viable and humane solution to the problem of swelling stray animal populations.

“If parent animals do not go under the knife, their children will be given the needle,” he added, explaining that in Taiwan, such animals are killed by an injection of lethal substances as required by law.

The Truck

According to Tung, LCO's mobile birth-control center for stray animals was converted from a refrigerator truck in 2008.

“We are the second place to have it in Asia, after Hong Kong,” Tung said, adding that not even Japan, one of Asia's richest countries, has such a service.

“And we retrofitted it with the latest equipment, all of it made in Taiwan, as I insisted,” he said, adding that the project cost his organization NT$2 million on top of the cost of the truck, which was about NT$1 million. “Retrofitting the truck took four months,” he added. Tung said that”a single trip to the south and back costs as much as NT$80,000 in fuel,” explaining that a large part of the fuel is used to keep the truck's interior temperature at exactly 21 degrees Celsius, the optimum temperature for surgery.

“The vets volunteer their services, but we have to pay for the supplies, such as sutures, anesthetics and other drugs,” he added.

Approved by the Council of Agriculture

Inspired by Animal Planet, Animal Cops and other animal welfare programs, Tung founded LCO at his own expense in 2005, a year after his creation of a “dog lovers' group” on Yahoo in 2004.

According to Tung, he spent all the money he earned from selling his home in Yonghe to fund the establishment of LCO, of which he is now a paid employee.

“My father did not speak to me for four years after I sold my apartment,” he said, adding that the organization receives approximately NT$300,000 in donations each month.

LCO, as an animal rescue organization, does a lot more than birth control surgeries to look after the well being of animals.

It rescues and cares for stray animals (healthy or otherwise), maltreated animals, animals severely injured by hunting traps, and those injured in road accidents. LCO runs a dog pound in Yingge, Taoyuan County, and publishes a monthly detailing its activities.

Its work has not gone unnoticed. Letters to the editor published in the LCO monthly, some from U.S. citizens, are full of praise for Tung and his organization.

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