Rescuer, Investigator, Educator, Filmmaker, and CEO of PACK Sanctuary
I’ve recently been asked why I allow Taiwan dogs to be adopted overseas. Am I not contributing to the problems in other countries? A very valid question that at one time held a very black and white answer for me. Then it began to conflict me as the gray areas clouded my judgment. After living and working all over SE Asia for 15 years, where street dogs can be a real problem and shelter standards and resources are far below anything most would consider acceptable, I began to question my own authority. Fifteen years ago, when I started working with animals in Thailand and Cambodia, my answer would have been a resounding, “NO! We are not sending Asia’s problems to the USA. For every dog we send there, we condemn an American dog to death.” But a lot has changed in those 15 years, especially in countries like the USA, Canada, France, and Holland. Thus, so did my perspective.
I’m an American. I have volunteered for many shelters in the USA. And I’ve worked several disasters which have flooded certain shelters beyond repair so let’s focus on the USA here. A lot has changed since Hurricane Katrina turned the world’s eyes on USA shelters and the way we keep our animals. In the 1980s, when I adopted my first rescue dog, The USA euthanized more than 20 million unwanted dogs and cats a year. That number has since dropped to just about 1.6 million nationwide, of those, 670,000 are dogs, and those dogs are usually the ones with severe behavioral problems, considered unadoptable. This means there is a shortage of very adoptable dogs in many of the shelters.
Adoptions in the USA have increased by more than 56% in the past 5 years. It’s trendy to adopt in America, And the “dog pounds” of the past are now much more like educational community centers with dogs; dogs that need rehabilitation, which is where Zach Stow’s Marley’s Mutts prison programs come in. They educate the youth and they work hard to match shelter dogs with behavioral issues with tough prisoners and train the prisoners to become professional dog trainers. The program is wildly successful. Muttville specializes in hard to adopt elderly dogs with their Seniors for Seniors programs, adopting out over 1000 senior dogs a year. And the Taiwanese organizations Mary’s Doggies and Ahan specialize in placing Taiwan’s unwanted street dogs into good homes in California, a state that has virtually outlawed puppy mills and pet shop dog sales. In fact, California is the dog adoption Capital of the west. We have three PACK dogs living in lovely homes in the bay area now.
But before I committed to really start focussing on overseas adoptions I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about. So I attended the Humane Society’s Animal Sheltering conference in New Orleans in May 2019 and met with and spoke with at least 30 global shelter representatives. I then went on an east coast and west coast shelter tour. I was shocked to learn that there are shelters all over the USA that are in fact starving for animals. 90% of the shelters I visited were drastically under-dogged, some with just 30-70 dogs and rows of empty runs and kennels - a good thing, right?
“Not if you want to stay in business,” says Gloria of Buddy Dog Humane Society, Mass. To my surprise, the more populated shelters of the southern states are now transporting hard to place pit bulls to northern shelters that are struggling to stay open. And even more shockingly, I learned that some shelters in the USA and the UK are actually actively breeding dogs to stay in business. Okay, what?
“Hello,” I said into the microphone from the back of the room at the Animal Sheltering conference, “I have 300 Asian dogs in desperate need of good homes. They’ve been pining away in a makeshift shelter in a cobra infested jungle for 5-8 years. No one wants them here.” Sherri Franklin, CEO of Muttville, replied from the podium, “let’s talk.” Several organizations offered to work with me that week but only a few I felt were of the quality that met my own high standards of placement. Before our dogs go overseas, not only do they undergo training and foster home care, but I must know there is a pre-qualified adopter waiting. We have too much invested in these dogs.
And the sad fact is, many of our dogs don’t belong in Taiwan, to begin with. Irresponsible breeding is out of control here. There are over 220,000 dogs bred in Taiwan a year, literally making it almost impossible to adopt dogs here. We have Mastiffs, Danes, Border Collies, Huskies, German Shepherds, and other cool and dry climate dogs. They don’t fair well in Taiwan. They develop serious allergies and skin infections from the tropical weather. These and the many 3-legged dogs (the misfits) are the dogs I wanted to focus on first because, well, if anyone knows what it’s like to be a misfit or a mutt, it’s us Americans.
As is these reasons were not enough for me to reconsider my viewpoint, we still have some Taiwanese who adopt dogs for the dinner table. Yep, you heard me right. It’s not prevalent but it still happens. On March 15, 2018 ETToday reported 14 dogs were adopted and cooked up for din din. Petsmao News reported a similar story just weeks later with 18 dogs winding up in a butcher shop.
This is why our adoption policy is very very strict in Taiwan. We vet our adopters very carefully and do frequent home-checks. We actively educate the public at pet expos and in classrooms and we do adopt locally when we can but the new government no-kill laws with zero plans for sterilization have created another problem far worse than I could have imagined. The reality is, Taiwan has more than 39,000 dogs and cats crammed into 60 or more shelters and the majority of the human population is still fixated on designer bred dogs for sale in pet shops. Huskies, Shibas, and Corgis are big right now. And we rescue them from bad homes. But we can adopt those out here in a day. The local dogs and mixed breeds pine away in the shelter for years. Over time, they literally lose their minds and either become feral or exhibit psychological stereotypic behavior. In other words, they sway and pace and growl and chew themselves like prisoners in a cell, because that's what they are. Sure we provide as much space and enrichment as we can but with 300 dogs and so little resources, sadly the human animal bond gets lost.
So, why not give Taiwan's local dogs a second chance at life? Shelter life is not living; it’s existing. Why not send a cold climate dog that should never have been bred in Taiwan back to the climate where she belongs and with a good family? After all, this is one earth we live on and these arbitrary boundaries we draw in the sand are part of the problem, not the solution. Taiwan’s dogs are loyal, easy to train, and have very healthy genes. They are planet earth’s dogs and deserve a second chance, regardless of the lines we humans have drawn in the sand. We are all earthlings.
Rescuer, Investigator, Educator, Filmmaker, and CEO of PACK Sanctuary
Animal sheltering in the United States: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow
Pet Adoption Statistics: The Numbers Behind the Need
Taiwan’s Government Statistics 107年全國公立動物收容所收容處理情形統計表
Adopted Dogs Eaten in Taiwan
Thank you for sharing this wonderful video of Pepsi and her transformation under your care. You are doing so much good for so many animals. Thank you!
Angel continues to do very well. While I promised Caroline (my dog-rescue advisor) that I would not make a final decision for a month (I tend to be a bit impulsive in matters of the heart) I know that I will keep her. She is a total love and is very happy here.
Last night I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and when I entered the bedroom this sweet sight awaited me.
I have been spreading the word about AHAN and PACK as best I can in my day to day life. As you can imagine, Angel attracts a lot of attention wherever we go, so I always tell people as much about her story and your remarkable work as much as I can. My neighbor is in contact about finding a dog to adopt. As long as you keep up this work I will continue to support you. I just made another $250 donation.
Soulik’s journey to his forever home
An Interview with Sheri Cappu Cino
Sheri: The first time I met Soulik was during our photoshoot. He was the most gentle out of the dogs Pack brought out for the event. That day was super busy and I honestly didn’t have much time to really get to know the dogs so that time I didn’t yet know I wanted Soulik to be my family.
The decision came after I fostered him for couple of days during PACK events. He was such a well behaved boy I couldn’t believe it!! As my landlord doesn’t allow pets I was worried of any damage but it turned out I didn’t need to worry. Soulik came house trained! He only does his business outside and after realizing he doesn’t chew or scratch any of the furniture I let him freely wander around the apartment and sleep wherever he pleased (the couch mostly) for the rest of his stay. Then I thought if no one will adopt this lovely boy during the upcoming events I will make sure he doesn’t go back to the sanctuary.
Amazingly no one saw what I saw in Soulik. Maybe because he is black. Or is 7 years old. Or because he is missing an eye. so a promise is a promise, I moved to a more suitable home and Soulik is now my baby boy.
Tim: What makes volunteering fun or important for you? Why do you do it?
The number of dogs in shelters in crazy high, I really want to help them find a good family.
I’m trying to help people see the value of non “pure breed” dogs, how they make an amazing pet and are very unique. The word pure breed actually makes no sense anymore anyway. All so called pure breeds nowadays are really mainly inbred or cross-bred manufactured designer dogs.
Tim: Why animals?
Sheri: I like animals. Humans are sometimes disappointing. Dogs never seem to disappoint me. They don’t judge me or criticize me, at least not to my knowledge. I come home to unconditional love every day.
Tim: Why would you foster a dog?
Sheri: It’s very rewarding to foster and see your foster dog learn and adapt to city life or family life, get more comfortable by the day with human attention and genuine love. I was very lucky to foster Bella, the sweetheart, before. It was an absolute wonderful time! She’s a dream, that cutie. I would say we have a lot of really good times. It’s amazing to see each dogs personality and slowly starting to understand their behavior and body language.
Tim: What made you adopt a mix breed? Why not just get one from the pet shop?
Sheri: I ALWAYS had mixed breeds. To me they are way more special.
Pet shops have a lot of unhealthy puppies that come from puppy mills. Taiwan has something like 600 backyard breeders and puppy mills, many of them illegal. The dogs often live in filth and get minimal care, and it’s purely for profit. It is a business and they are a product to be sold. There is no love involved. That doesn’t sit well with me. No one should support that.
Tim: How is your experience since you've adopted? How has it changed your life?
Sheri: We’ve been very happy with Su, he is a very good therapy dog after a long day. I would say there is a lot more laughter and joy in the house with him. It’s hard to stay in a bad mood when you come home to a sweetie like Su. We need more foster parents to help the shelter dogs adjust.
By Bruce Shu
The journey of a rescued or abandoned dog shouldn’t end at the shelter. Most dogs are only at their happiest with the security and affection of humans they trust. But many never feel that happiness, being passed over because they are older or big or mixed breed, because of anxieties developed as a stray, or simply because they are not used to people and lack the social skills to charm themselves into a new family.
This is where fosters make a difference and save lives – by helping dogs to transform mentally and physically to get ready for permanent homes and by advocating for their adoption. Fostering has its challenges. Rescued dogs range from the nearly perfect (rarely) to the severely behaviorally challenged, to put it diplomatically. They take patience and time, but any sacrifice is repaid tenfold in seeing their transformation and growing confidence and sense of security.
And like sending a child off to university, every time a dog goes to a new home you get a lump in your throat but immense pride in your heart. For a long time, before I started fostering, I donated to animal welfare charities and volunteered at events and at shelters. I even adopted one of the shelter dogs. All that help was welcome, of course, but I was really leaving the hard work, the real work, to others. Fostering was a way to take personal responsibility, because dog and cat welfare starts with each dog or cat, after all.
Helping one dog at a time, sending each one on its journey – that is the pride and satisfaction of fostering.
If you are interested in becoming a foster caregiver to one of these lovely animals, please click here
An Adoption Love Story- Huban and Tom
PACK Sanctuary regularly keeps in touch with our adopters. Being the great matchmakers that we are, we like to make sure our animals and their new humans are happy together.
Today’s adoption success story comes from Max and Rhianna, who adopted two of our favorite animals, Huban and Tom.
We reached out to Max and Rhianna to ask how life has been going with their cuddly companions and if they would be willing to share a little bit about what it’s like to be an adopting parent.
My successful Adoption Story- Dazzler
我的成功認養故事 - Dazzler
Question: How did you and Dazzler meet?
I came to know about Pack sanctuary from some forum, when I checked it out on FB and on your website his innocent face struck me like a lightning I wanted to adopt him before anybody could have adopted in the event so I asked my friends to join me in checking out Dazzler
我透過某個論壇得知The PACK Sanctuary 巴克動物懷善救援協會。當我在FB和協會的網站上查詢時，Dazzler無辜的臉立刻電到我！我想搶在其他人之前認養他，所以我揪朋友陪我一起去看Dazzler。
When I first saw him it was like Love at first sight, It was not only I who chose Dazzler it was also him choosing me. The walk on the beach helped us in accepting each other, the way he was jumping from one rock to other it was quite clear he is a livewire and joyful boy
His energy level is what was a good match. We are a good match because our energy level match, may be if he had a higher energy level and I couldn’t have been able to fulfill it then maybe things could have been different.
Hi, this is Seven, a Jack Russell Terrier mix born in 2015. Seven is friendly, sweet and love human attention. He may even sneak you a kiss when first meet. Seven has clean limbs with big dark doe eyes that are sure to melt your heart. He loves to cuddle and will make a fantastic companion.
嗨，這是小七，一個混種的傑克羅素梗，出生在2015年。小七個性友好，貼心，喜愛被關愛。 第一次見面時，他甚至可能會偷偷親你。 小七有乾淨的四肢，黑黝黝的大眼睛，肯定會融化你的心。 他喜歡擁抱，適合成為一個夢幻伴侶。