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2017-10-09 07:46:06

Securing a spot for her cat, Sam, at a local pet hotel during China’s weeklong National Day break had been enough of a headache for Li Tongzhou. So imagine her dismay when she was told during her travels that Sam had escaped through a window, leaving her with no pet — and no legal recourse against the animal inn.

“Sam is missing!” Li told Sixth Tone in a frantic call during the Golden Week holiday. Li, who works for a tax refund company in Shanghai, had traveled to the southern city of Shenzhen for a family reunion. Her boyfriend was also out of town during the same period, giving Li no choice but to leave Sam at a pet boarding facility.

Due to China’s holiday schedule, many people go on vacation at the same time, thereby putting enormous pressure on tourism-related facilities and services, from airports to pet hotels.

After conducting a thorough screening, Li had entrusted Sam to Cat Adoption Team for a seven-day stay beginning Sept. 30. Located in the Xintiandi area not far from Li’s workplace, Cat Adoption Team operates as both a pet hotel and a pet shop. The Beijing News reported on Sept. 29 that “many” such pet hotels operate without licenses.

Currently, there are no national regulations or laws on pet boarding in China. However, rules have been issued by local animal epidemic prevention departments in some cities. For instance, in Beijing, pet hotels are required to have “a complete animal epidemic prevention management system” with “veterinary professionals and technical personnel,” and pet boarding in residential areas is strictly prohibited. Yet Shanghai lacks specific regulations on animal boarding.

Li adopted Sam, a stray cat with beautifully patterned fur, a year ago when the cat was only a few months old. She said she has treated him like her child ever since. When Sixth Tone first met her, Li was delivering a large container of cat food to the pet boarding facility. As she said goodbye to Sam, she urged Cat Adoption Team employees to take extra care of her pet during his stay, telling them that Sam was very timid.

But that request appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

Four days into Li’s holiday, the owner of the shop — a man surnamed Jiang — informed Li that Sam had climbed through a window during indoor playtime and was missing.

Li immediately flew back to Shanghai to search for Sam and confront Jiang. “I handed out leaflets and stuck reward notices on telephone poles in that neighborhood until almost 11 p.m.,” Li said.

Because Li had not signed a contractual agreement with Jiang, she worried that the pet hotel would deny responsibility for Sam’s disappearance.

However, the two parties avoided an ugly dispute when Sam was found by a private pet detective whom Jiang hired. Sam had wandered only as far as the second floor of the pet hotel premises and, apart from some minor scratches on his nose, was unharmed.

When reached by Sixth Tone on Monday, Jiang declined to comment, saying, “Don’t call again” before hanging up the phone.

While Sixth Tone was unable to verify how exactly the cat was found, Li said that to her knowledge, the detective had used a device to trace the cat by picking up his vital signs.

Li said the incident has left her suspicious of pet inns. “Although I am grateful to Jiang that Sam was finally found,” she said, “I will never turn to pet hotels again — ever.”

Contributions: Fan Yiying; editor: Colum Murphy.

(Header image: A cat lies on the floor at a pet shop in Chongqing, July 3, 2012. VCG)