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2021-06-07 06:34:23

SHANGHAI – Animal rights groups in China have launched a new welfare center to educate the public on animals and encourage the adoption of strays amid rising incidents of abuse in the absence of laws against their mistreatment.

Led by the nonprofits Companion Animals Working Group and China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, the center claims to be the country’s first organization with the purpose of teaching people about animals to deter abuse. Headquartered in Beijing, the announcement of China Animal Life Education Center came just weeks after more than 160 kittens and puppies were sent as mysterious gifts by mail — at least four of them were found dead — in a trend known as the “pet blind box.”

“This shows that life education on animals has been missing,” Ling Yuhan, a fundraiser at the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, said during the center’s launch event Sunday. “When there is no such awareness, we treat these lives casually and think they are not important. Then more animals will be abandoned.”

In recent years, China has seen a rise in pet ownership and is currently home to more than 100 million pet dogs and cats. The country’s pet market has surpassed 206 billion yuan ($32 billion) — a nearly 21% increase from 2018, according to an industry report published in January.

Despite the trend of keeping pets, there are, however, tens of millions of stray cats and dogs, often leading to cases of abuse. Last year, a senior at Shandong University of Technology in eastern China reportedly abused and killed 80 stray cats over two months, while a man in southern Guangdong province was detained for allegedly beating a neighbor’s dog to death the previous year.

China Animal Life Education Center intends to educate the public about animals, which it believes would be the first step toward ending such violence. The center has developed a series of educational courses and films on raising pets and handling strays and plans to take the awareness campaign to some 10,000 schools across the country in the coming years.

The organization intends to open 100 branches in six cities across China in the next three years, according to an announcement Sunday.

The center also plans to raise funds for privately-run animal shelters and help them connect with potential owners through social media platforms, including a mini-app on social app WeChat.

“There are many people who want to adopt, it’s just they haven’t found (the platform),” she said.

Meanwhile, the center will serve as a training ground for guide dogs and therapy dogs to promote the public’s understanding and acceptance of working dogs.

At Sunday’s launch event, the center also unveiled plans for a veterinary hospital in Beijing and the aim to reduce the costly expenses associated with pet ownership, which is one of the major reasons many abandon their furry companions. The organization is currently raising funds to collect an additional 3 million yuan to complete the facility.

“What we solve is not only the problem of stray animals but also the common problem faced by all people in the society,” Chen Qiang, director of the Companion Animals Working Group told Sixth Tone in Shanghai. “As stray animals are caused by people, we want to pay more attention to guide people to change their ideas.”

Contributions: Chen Congcong; editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)