Monday, May 23, 2016

Pet Ownership in Shanghai II: Death on Walks

(Because "Pet Murder" seemed like a melodramatic title, even for this pet lover.)

Yes, you read that correctly. People, presumably civilians tired of stray animals, have been using a number of methods to try to kill them, inadvertently (or not...) killing pets. In the past couple of months, stories of people killing pets have been spreading on WeChat (Chinese Facebook-ish). If you're a vengeful person, you will enjoy this story about a dog meat poacher who died by accidentally shooting himself with a poison dart.

I am skeptical of a lot of dramatic stories that go around Chinese social media.  There is a depressing number of people willing to lie to try to gain money or fame (e.g.). Honestly, I probably wouldn't have believed that people in the suburbs were putting out poisoned food if one of my closest friends' dogs wasn't a victim exactly two months ago today.

She was a sweetheart!

Ruby, rescued from a drowning by not very nice people in a barrel of oil when she was a puppy, was my friend's best friend. Her first dog, she was totally in love. She told me that when she had her second baby, just a couple of weeks before Ruby was killed, she wasn't worried about being overburdened by having a newborn, young child, and dog, because Ruby "kept her sane and happy".

Unfortunately, instead of happiness, my friend dealt with recovering from a C-section, caring for a newborn, explaining death to her 5 year old who just witnessed his "sister" die, and grieving her beloved pet all in the same morning. When she called me, sobbing uncontrollably, I thought there had been an accident. Not a deliberate action by someone to kill animals.

The food that killed Ruby

Ruby, who was not a food-crazy dog like our Pup, had taken one bite quickly of something on the ground outside of a primary school while on her morning walk. Within half an hour, she was dead. My friend's family retrieved the food: a piece of meat tied with string to a stick of poison.

Soon after, in April, 20 cats were found dead in a popular compound in the Lujiazui area (where all the giant towers are in Shanghai), poisoned overnight. Several people I know live there, some with children and pets.

Other incidents have been reported with people making "meat balls" and putting needles inside, leaving them around for animals to eat. Delightful. It is especially hard to avoid as there are people on the other end of the spectrum who leave real, safe food out for strays.

Once you get into the "pet lover loop" in Shanghai, it's hard not to be inundated with sob stories of abandoned, stolen, and dead animals. Unfortunately, due to the amount of rumours and b.s., a lot of reports are accompanied by photos as proof. I'm grateful to no longer witness Central American-style media with dead human bodies everywhere, but it's still depressing and disturbing.

While we have people getting used to urban life and a large number of strays, this will continue to happen. I think as spaying and neutering become more common and people become comfortable with adopting "ugly" (i.e. not 100% purebred perfect poodles) pets, this will be less of a problem. There is a big issue with people abandoning pets that get too big or less cute. This was probably the case for our Pup, abandoned after being hit by a car.

In the meantime, Shanghai friends, be diligent about keeping your pets leashed, young children close, and eyes peeled.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pet Ownership in Shanghai I: Fake Products

I'm going to write a few posts answering the question, "What is it like owning a pet in Shanghai?" All of these answers can be summed up as, "It sucks [compared to many places]".

Where to start? Having a dog in Shanghai is a frustrating, scary experience. Pet ownership is a fairly new practice. You'll find a full range of attitudes from obsessive animal lovers to people who think that dogs should be exterminated and/or eaten (although eating dog is not nearly as common in China as the media would have you believe).

Basically every dog in Shanghai
For the newly middle classed, having a perfectly manicured poodle is becoming the default. I have never seen so many dogs in shoes in my life. There are more and more pet stores, physical and online, and veterinary clinics popping up as entrepreneurs latch on to this new opportunity. This means that a lot of "beginners" to pet ownership are providing products and veterinary care, posing as experts.

Clearly, this is a recipe for disaster, especially combined with China's propensity for creating fake products.

The dog rescue that initially took Pup in and covered his medical bills and other costs is run by a kind older Chinese woman with very minimal resources. A passionate animal lover, she has been taking in abandoned dogs and cats, organizing fostering, and finding homes for pets for decades. She has been ostracised by others in the community for caring more about animals than people, even during very hard times in China. A debate for another day, but we're thankful for her passion. Otherwise, our little guy would almost certainly not be alive today.

Anyway, lady has a giant heart and stretched pocketbook, trying to care for as many animals as she can. As a result, when the animals in her care need medicines, she tries to get a good deal.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous vendors take advantage of people trying to save money on their pet products by creating fake items. We ran out of a bottle of antibacterial shampoo she had given us and, lacking time, purchased the same product from the vet. The bottle and labels looked identical. The product we got from the vet was much more expensive but also smelled like medicine and actually worked! The shampoo we had been using from the dog rescue smelled like baby shampoo or dish soap and had no effect on his bacterial infection.

Now we question everything we had given him previously that had been purchased online by the dog rescue. Deworming pills, defleaing liquids, antibiotics, eye drops...He went blind about a month after we rescued him, maybe fake medicines were to blame.

We'll never know what effect fake products had on Pup's health. Most likely, being China, unless the government decides it's a priority, no one will tackle an investigation into these potentially dangerous practices. Hopefully an animal lover makes his or her way up the bureaucratic ladder.

In the meantime, there are trustworthy, albeit costly, options. For us, Bark Shanghai and Beck and Stone have been great sources of real products. Some people also buy directly when they go overseas. We were denied being able to buy flea prevention stuff when we tried in Vancouver because our dog wasn't present (...) but we'll try again elsewhere this summer!

This money pit has another infection at the minute. Genuine products only for treatment this time!