By Janice Nesamani
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In the early hours of June 6, 26 dogs traveled from China through Vancouver, Canada to Seattle. They are the latest pack to be rescued by China Rescue Dogs, a nonprofit that conducts international rescues exclusively from China—bringing dogs, destined to be killed, to the United States where they can live out the rest of their days with their forever families.
The organization was founded in July 2019 by Jill Stewart, who is also president, after she adopted a disabled Golden Retriever from China. Meeso was found wandering the streets of Northern China and taken in by monks to escape what could have been a cruel fate. Instead, his homecoming spurred a movement.
“Touching his soul and embracing what he was and what he could have been, made me want to start a GoFundMe page to bring more animals to the U.S.,” Stewart said.
The first dog came into the country through China Rescue Dogs on Aug. 30, 2019, and today they have rescued 602 dogs in less than two years.
“It became very clear to me very early on that I had to travel to China because you can’t really understand the brutality as a rescuer unless you actually see it, feel it, and touch it,”
Stewart said. “All of our dogs are saved from slaughterhouses, slaughter trucks, or police pounds. These are dogs destined for slaughter.”
The organization’s rescue comes just weeks before the controversial lychee and dog-meat festival that usually takes place in June in Yulin.
In an announcement on April 8, 2020, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced and Reuters reported that dogs would be reclassified as “companion animals” instead of “livestock,” a part of China’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Stewart tells us that a growing population of younger Chinese finds the slaughter of dogs incredibly offensive.
“Our country and other countries know about Yulin, but sadly in China, Yulin is every day,” she said.
Stewart is not sure how effective the rules will actually be as dog meat trade is a lucrative industry.
“In my humble opinion, things will double,” she said.
“Every single day an animal is trucked for hours to a warehouse, tortured, and brutally slaughtered. Animals have no rights and the people who own them have no rights,” Stewart said.
“If you believe holistically in the universe, you are ingesting something that has been tortured and that meat cannot be sanitary.”
China Rescue Dogs usually used flight volunteers who flew to China and escorted 7-8 animals back on airlines that allowed live animals in the cargo hold. The average cost would be around $1,000 per animal.
“When the pandemic hit, the borders closed, and our animals were stuck. We had to figure out how to get the animals,” Stewart said.
The answer was freighters, but that raises the cost.
“The average cost for moving 26 dogs to the U.S. is $52,600 and we have to raise all that money.”
Stewart’s appeal is simple—sacrifice a coffee or a meal with a friend and send the funds their way.
“Donations are my biggest and top need right now. Though we are grateful for well wishes and $5, $10, or $15 donation, if we get 7,000 people to give us $25, it’s pretty amazing what that adds up to,” Stewart said.
The money isn’t just to move the animals.
“It costs $3,000 to feed my dogs at the shelter per month. We also care for the animals in a shelter with food, medications. Right now, we are working on getting another staff person into our shelter at Wuhan, where we are also trying to get air-conditioning because it’s sweltering,” she said.
Speaking about collaborating with her Chinese rescue workers, Stewart said, “They have become my family and just like everyone, it’s been hard for me to be separated from them during the pandemic.”
She communicates with her Chinese rescue partners located in Shanghai, north Shanghai, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Harbin, and Chengdu daily through WeChat.
“We buy dogs from the slaughterhouse, off the meat trucks, from the back of restaurants, pay the police to get them out of the police pound and rescue dogs from bad shelters,” Stewart said.
Once the dogs are rescued, they are quarantined for 30 days where they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Once they are cleared to be adopted by both the Chinese and American law, the dogs are prepared to fly and sent to the U.S.
“We have about 16 collaborative partnerships across the country. We work with 11 Golden Retriever Rescues, the Humane Society, SPCA, a small nonprofit called Small Little Dogs in Chicago, and we just partnered with a rescue in Canada,” Stewart said.
“A lot of these rescues pay us a small rescue fee, but that doesn’t cover our costs. We also host some of our dogs on our website and do private adoptions, where we have applications, vet references, and have collaborative home visits before we send our dogs to their forever homes,” she said.
While her visits to China have resulted in close encounters with the helplessness dogs and their owners can deal with, she feels international pressure and a strong stand by politicians or celebrities may help bring this suffering to an end.
Stewart is hopeful.
“I hope that someday this brutality will end.”
To donate, go to chinarescuedogs.org.
Janice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.