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Taiwan, a subtropical island east of China’s shore with a population of 23 Million people, was called “the beautiful island” by the first Europeans who encountered it. For dogs, Taiwan can certainly be a beautiful place to live, if they have good owners taking care of them in this South-East-Asian country.
In Taiwan, movies about dogs lead to a large number of dog puppies being bought by families. But what if the owner decides one day, the little puppy he bought a few month ago has become too big or needs too much food? Unlike the movie hero dogs, the real ones often end up abandoned.

Taiwanese people keep – preferably black - dogs as guard dogs and keep them on a short chain almost all their life. In Taiwanese opinion, a black mixed race dog is very suitable to be a guard dog. But of course a dog’s colour does not influence its character and mixed race black dogs are the same as brown or white ones and are no fighting dogs. Other than as guard dogs, mixed dogs are also quite popular as food, as some Taiwanese people still eat dogs. Dog food is still being viewed as a healthy diet in winter, despite the government banning dog meat from being served in restaurants and being sold at butchers.

See updates on this dog HERE link!

Unfortunately many people leave
the collars on the dogs when
abandoning them...

In cities, space is very sparse, they usually do not even have sidewalks and so city people usually have no space for dogs. However, you still see a lot of dogs. Pure-bred dogs are status symbols and small pure-breds with fluffy fur are some kind of fashion item for young ladies when walking on the street. Huskies or Labradors are also popular with young men. Other dogs are kept in small cages next to doors, others are roaming free, because people just open their flat’s door when the dog wants to take a walk and the dog will go by itself. Consequently you see a lot of dogs limping, because they got hit by a car. Foreigners coming to Taiwan are often wondering why so many dogs have only three legs until they learn about dogs and traffic. Some drivers who see a street dog may also decide to crash into it on purpose because street dogs are viewed as a hassle.
For a pet in a city, a harsh new life can start after being abandoned. In the countryside, the situation is not much better, but some farmers provide food for a bunch of street dogs and in return have their farm well guarded.
Yesterday, the dog was sitting on its owner’s lap and getting dog cookies. It felt save and secure, probably had a cute English name like “Betty” and felt loved by its owners.
But then one day, no more cookies, no more caressing, Betty is standing in the park and the last thing it sees of its owner is the rear of their owner’s car or motorcycle driving away. Now Betty has to learn to compete with other dogs, some of them much bigger and very experienced in fighting for food. A cute little fashion dog with its fluffy white fur and a pink ribbon in its hair must suddenly use its teeth to fight with a mean looking scarred street dog, to get some bone from the rubbish bin, instead of getting expensive tasty food from the can. In that moment it would not help abandoned Betty to know the mean looking street dog was once a cute young dog, just like itself.

Nevertheless, a dog simply being abandoned is luckier than others. Occasionally cruelties like a dog being thrown out of a window of a high storey are being reported; probably the owner wanted to get rid of it. Taiwan’s law does not protect animals much against abuse and people here view a dog rather as simple property than as a living being with feelings. There have been many reports of usually young people letting off their frustration by abusing street dogs, as the smaller and weak ones make easy targets. Weapons and jerry cans were reportedly used in these incidents.

Roaming the city streets for many years, our cute dog Betty will get filthy fur, parasites and no-one of the young women meeting in the park with their fancy dogs will even take a look at Betty. If such a girl will accidentally see Betty somewhere, it will say “ayoooooo!” meaning “Ugh, how ugly!”. People in Taiwan look down on street dogs, they see them as dirty, an infestation and not much better than mice or rats, because they rip open trash bags and are hiding under the bushes in the park, sometimes scaring children who play with balls. Those people do not know, or have forgotten, that strays once were pet dogs, just like their little “Lucky” or “Princess” on their lead.

If Betty is lucky, she will not eat poisoned food, as some people who do not like plenty of street dogs roaming the streets will put poisoned food to some places. Or maybe they only want to poison rats and do not even intend to kill stray dogs.
Betty may also be fortunate or fast enough not to be severely kicked or beaten by a person not too fond of street dogs running around.

Other dangers for Betty are dog-catchers. If someone calls a dog-catcher to get rid of some street dogs in the area and Betty gets caught, she will come to the local dog shelter, where she will sit in a cage together with lots of other dogs. Only very few times someone will come to pick up a dog which was lost. So Betty will be kept for seven days inside her cage and may think, life seems to get better, because she gets regular food, even if it is few and does not taste so good. But she could also end up in a dog shelter with not enough food available for the dogs, as this depends on the town’s budget. In that case the conditions in the shelter may seem like a nightmare.

Anyway, Betty and the others in the shelter do not know that after the seventh day of their stay in the shelter, they will be put to sleep because the people there get to pick up new stray dogs every day of the week and do not have so much space. Betty will probably be dreaming of her owners and her favourite place by the sofa, when it is all over after getting the final injection.
However, maybe Betty is luckier than this. Probably she will walk around a corner one day and one of the residents will say “oh, what a poor little dog you are” and will offer her a new home.
Hopefully she will not be abandoned again, when she gets inconvenient for the owner. This could surely make her lose all trust in humans.

How can Taiwan’s street dog situation improve? As Taiwan’s people are now learning to protect their environment, we are hoping people will get aware that animals deserve protection as well. Hopefully people will learn to neuter their pets, so they do not produce more and more new puppies which often end up as strays.

One day maybe, Taiwan’s government will impose stricter rules on dog breeders, who are using bitches as breeding machines to mass-produce dog puppies and often kick the mother out, once she is not healthy enough to give birth to young dogs.

But until then, there is plenty of work for dog rescue groups like www.stray-dogs.org.

We are a group of Taiwanese people and two foreign nationals. We are all private volunteers and only have our free time and personal assets to save stray dogs, give them medical treatment including having them neutered and then try to find a new home for them.

For Betty and others like her, we would love to buy a plane ticket and send her on her way to a new loving home overseas. Travelling in the storage compartment of the plane in a transportation box will be a rough ride for Betty, because the strange noise and smell and the small box will scare and confuse her. But if at the end a nice new home with dog cookies and love await Betty, it was all worth it. We at stray-dogs.org usually have tears in our eyes, when we say goodbye to “our” dog at the airport. But we know, only by sending one dog off to its new home, we can take care of a new Betty or Boomer who is waiting right around the corner.