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September 26, 2017

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

No More 'Good Deaths,' But Does That Mean A Good Life?

Chiu Yu-Hsuan (邱于軒), a project manager at Taiwan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said that overcrowding was a safety concern for dogs.

"If too many dogs feed in one cage, they might bite each other and infection or diseases bright spread easily -- that's the most concerning part," Chiu said.

In February of this year, the Yilan shelter saw an outbreak of canine parvovirus and 72 dogs had to put down to control the disease.

In Tainan, shelters are trying a mix of approaches to controlling the number of animals in their charge. Like Yilan, Tainan launched a zero-euthanasia policy in 2015.

Hung Chen-kai (洪振凱), head of a shelter under Tainan Animal Health Inspection and Protection Office, said Tainan has been able to keep its shelter population down with methods like TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), accurate capture and a program that trains working dogs.

"But these methods do not work well every time," Hung said.

Not every dog can become a working dog, and accurate capture and TNR requires the cooperation of locals.

"If all that people want is for all the stray animals 'disappear,' then the work of animal protection will never succeed," he said.

The Real Culprit

Many animal activists told The China Post that the key to solving the stray animal problem was captured in the catchphrase "Don't abandon -- neuter."

But it is difficult to promote neutering and microchip implantation in Taiwan because of most of those problems stem from the owner, who has free will, said Kao Chen-Chun (高晨鈞), a project manager at Help-Save-A-Pet Fund.

In Taiwan, there's still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the education of pet and stray animal treatment, Kao said, saying that Taiwan was still "an undeveloped country" in that regard.

Owners often have doubts about neutering and microchip implantation, ranging from concerns about hurting the dog to questions about its necessity.

"Many owners refuse to microchip their pets because they don't want to take responsibility for it," Hung Chen-kai said.

'Can't force them to come to class'

Animal activists say that neutering is an important protective measure that not only reduces the risk of illness in pets, but also lowers the animal's aggression and their risk of being abandoned or sent to shelters.

In addition, unneutered pets also sometimes copulate with stray animals, exacerbating the overpopulation problem.

"And then locals feel annoyed and then call the shelter to catch those stray dogs and cats," Chiu Yu-hsuan said.

The more people pursue a high-quality life, the more people hate stray animals and call up shelters to take them away, Chiu said.

As for microchipping, it's like giving pets an ID card so that they can be identified if they get lost. If the owner ditches their pets on purpose, both the owner and the pets can be found.

"We actually hold lectures frequently, hoping to inculcate the right concepts. However, we can't force careless people to come to the lecture," Hung Chen-kai said, sighing. He said he thinks problem is unsolvable.

Short on Funds and Concern

In the Netherlands, which has a successful zero-euthanasia policy, there's a rule that every pet must have a microchip with their basic information and the owner's personal information implanted within seven weeks of birth.

In Taiwan, there are similar rules governing matters like microchip implantation and animal neutering. The problem is that they are not enforced.

"When it comes to the animals' neutering, it is my opinion that the government spends too little funds and shows too little concern," Chiu Yu-hsuan of the SPCA said.

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