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AAF's 2'nd Companion Animal Symposium brings together 39 Chinese animal welfare groups
Delegates call for better vet care for companion animals
Our 2nd China Companion Animal Symposium was an outstanding success, with 39 Chinese animal welfare groups coming together with one voice.
The symposium, in November 2007, was once again held in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou – the country’s dog and cat eating capital. About 100 delegates passed a number of unanimous resolutions, including a call to the Chinese Government to make humane drugs available for companion animals.
Delegate Dr John Wu, who runs Leader Animal Clinic in Guangzhou, said the biggest problem faced by veterinarians in China was the lack of internationally recognised drugs for treating a range of common ailments in pets. He said one of the most-needed drugs was sodium pentobarbital, an anaesthetic commonly used in the West.
“The government’s focus is still on agriculture, so the drugs available are for farm animals, Dr Wu said. “But the importation of common drugs for cats and dogs is still illegal. We cannot get a licence to import these drugs.” He said the problem was not caused by a deliberate refusal by the government to allow such drugs into the country; it was because the authorities did not see the issue as a priority.
“Meanwhile cats and dogs are suffering and vets and pet owners are being forced to buy drugs on the black market,” Dr Wu said. He said that many vets also used medicines made for human consumption and had to guess at the right dosage.
Jill said the animal welfare groups that attended the conference would go back to their local authorities and ask that the issue of drugs for companion animals be given higher priority. She hopes the authorities realise that it is in their interests to introduce legislation to allow the importation of such drugs.
She said many pet owners were reluctant to take their dogs and cats to be de-sexed because of the risk of complications from the sub-standard and inappropriate anaesthetics that China’s vets were forced to use. “This is leading to massive problems with over-population and abandoned animals, an increased risk of rabies and ultimately an increase in cruel and reactive culls. The properly licensed drugs would allow the authorities in China to greatly reduce the number of stray animals on the streets.”
Dr Shu Dai, Veterinary Affairs Manager for Hill’s Pet Nutrition China Division said at the forum that another big problem for China’s vets was a lack of training in the treatment of domestic animals. “Most universities still only teach vets how to care for livestock,” he said. “Only a few universities in the bigger cities are now starting to offer veterinary courses that cover companion animals.”
Many of the delegates spoke of the challenges they faced in saving and homing stray cats and dogs and the need for laws to protect domestic animals from abuse and neglect. They shared harrowing accounts of cruelty and personal hardship, and resolved to work together to bring about change.
The meeting, which was jointly funded and hosted by AAF and the Humane Society International (HSI), also voted unanimously to call for an end to the country’s brutal dog culls and the slaughter of cats and dogs for the meat and fur trades and for the authorities to introduce de-sexing, vaccination and public education programmes for companion animals. All the delegate groups voted to form a network – the Animals Asia Friendship Alliance – to work together to advance these goals.
Christie Yang, our Guangzhou-based China Relations Director and convener of the symposium, said such co-operation was essential in a country as vast as China. “This symposium provides an opportunity for these people to speak for animals in one voice, a louder voice,” she said. “And it’s no use just blaming people. It’s much better if we can provide some suggestions.”
Guest speakers included HSI’s Dr Barry Kellogg, who gave the delegates practical advice on treating common ailments and how to ensure a pain-free death for animals when euthanasia was the only option and Dr Patrick Chong of the Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who spoke on the benefits of de-sexing companion animals.
Jill said the symposium showed that there was a groundswell of change, with community concern for companion animals rapidly increasing and authorities becoming more aware of the need for animal welfare. “The 39 groups that attended this meeting represent the millions of ordinary Chinese who want to see an end to the torture of animals in their country. Imagine this forum happening 10 or even five years ago – it simply wouldn’t have been possible,” she said. “Caring people in China are speaking out and their voices can now steer change.”