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August 17, 2017

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Long read: Six months into the no-kill policy, we look inside Taiwan's shelters

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A week ago, a black dog died four days after entering an animal shelter in Southern Taiwan. It had not been put to sleep because euthanasia is illegal in Taiwan.

Rather, the pooch appeared to have been overstressed by a combination of bad weather and a hot, loud and extremely overcrowded shelter.

The death of this particular dog triggered outrage from members of the public and the people who had known it outside the shelter.

Known for patrolling a convenience store, it was so affable to customers that most who knew it believed it had a family of its own.

If the dog had never entered the shelter, some observers argued, it would still be alive and well.

A Double-edged Policy

It's now been nearly six months since Taiwan's government enacted a complete no-kill policy nationwide.

Although the policy ended the euthanizing of healthy animals in all public shelters, it also exacerbated problems like overcrowding and underfunding.

Animal rights activists have warned that unless the policy gets the proper support, animals that are spared euthanasia will live out their lives in misery.

There are 33 public shelters across Taiwan's 22 administrative areas, and each can accommodate anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred animals.

But even as early as last year, a number of shelters had already reached and even exceeded capacity, according to data from the Council of Agriculture.

Packed to Overcapacity

No more killing could be a good thing, but what kind of treatment are animals getting in overcrowded shelters lacking in resources?

"After the zero euthanasia policy, the number of animals here has increased," said Yen Yi-feng (嚴一峰), director of the animal protection office in Taipei City.

In Chiayi, the kennels are also at overcapacity.

"The numbers of animals in our shelter has obviously increased," said an administrator of a shelter in Chiayi City.

The administrator, surnamed Huang, said that since the no-kill policy was put into effect, the shelter has found itself housing over 40 dogs — twice as many as it was ever able to accommodate.

In fact, they are now using a temporary space that doesn't have enough medical resources, Huang said.

As a result, they have begun catching only "dangerous" animals, rather than friendly dogs or puppies, but they are still unable to keep the number down.

Yilan has had a zero-euthanasia policy since 2015. At the Yilan public shelter, the number of animals has steadily increased over the past two years.

It has exceeded its capacity by 50 percent, making it the most crowded shelter in Taiwan.

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