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Abandoned Puppies a Major Concern in the Year of the Dog
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As the Spring Festival holiday approaches, ushering in the Year of the Dog in the Chinese zodiac, one Shanghai organization fears that animals purchased to mark the occasion could end up on the streets once they've outlived their novelty. 


"We're really hoping there won't be a surge in abandoned dogs during this period, but that's what we're afraid of," said Carol Wolfson, founder of Second Chance Animal Aid (SCAA).


SCAA Director Cathy Brandell is equally wary: "We've already had several people looking to re-home puppies through us, which we're not worried about because we make sure all our adopters are properly educated about the animals' needs, but it does seem to be connected to the holiday and we are worried there will be a lot of dogs bought to mark the New Year that will end up on the street."


Since its conception less than a year ago, SCAA has adopted an innovative approach to tackling Shanghai's abandoned animal problem. It has not to set up a shelter and instead relies on a network of foster parents to look after rescued animals.


For Wolfson, the decision was a no-brainer: "If you have a shelter and you have an address, that's a recipe for dumping; people will just come and leave animals on your doorstep ... It's a lose-lose situation."


The group is working to establish a network of foster parents to care for animals until a permanent home is found, while also running an active education program.


"If someone comes to us with an animal they have taken off the street and asks us to take it, our answer is 'no.' They picked it up, it's their responsibility," Wolfson explains.


"What we will do is offer help and support. We will help them get the animal spayed, for example, and through our website and adoption program, we will help find the animal a permanent home."


The group, which since March last year has found permanent homes for 127 animals, has around 30 foster carers.


By the end of the year, SCAA hopes to re-home 300 cats and dogs and triple its fosterers to 100, a figure Wolfson sees as equivalent to having a permanent shelter.


"We are always looking for more foster carers," Brandell said, herself an active fosterer. "People can foster for just a couple of days or even several years. It's great for people from abroad, who know they won't be able to take an animal back home with them, but can look after an animal while they are living in Shanghai."


One fosterer, Karen Nielsen, became part of the group last October after finding an abandoned kitten in her garden.


"SCAA helped put the kitten up for adoption but when no one took her because she was so small, I decided to keep her."


Although mainly active within Shanghai's expatriate community, SCAA has teamed up with the Jane Goodall Institute's Roots and Shoots program to work with young people in the city.


Tori Zwister, director of the institute in Shanghai, said: "We work with more than 130 schools in Shanghai and whenever there's a request for an animal welfare project, we point them in the direction of the SCAA.


"Seeing children stroke and experience pets for the first time is a heartwarming experience."


Unfortunately, the comparatively small number of carers means that, for the moment, there are always more animals in search of a safe home than there are safe homes to go to. "We need more fosterers," Wolfson said.


(China Daily January 20, 2006)

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