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!

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