The attempt to shelter the strays in Maozhuang is without precedent in the region. Although the setting up of a government-backed dog shelter in downtown Yushu has been reported, little is known to the outside world. The Yushu government intentionally played down the issue to avoid any negative impact on tourism.
But the monks and villagers in Maozhuang know the situation can’t last. The first problem is the shortage of food. Then there’s the fighting between the dogs in the shelter, which has resulted in a significant number of deaths. Then there’s the diseases inevitably spreading among so many dogs cooped up together.
According to villager Yong Qiang, over 1,500 dogs were left at the shelter originally – but now there’s fewer than 1,000, thanks to deaths and escapes. The Gangri Neichog Research and Conservation Center succeeded in crowd-funding for 1,200 rabies vaccines in May 2016. “But when we arrived at the shelter, we could see the state the dogs were in. Some were too feeble to be vaccinated, so we had to delay the vaccination plan. ” recounted Yin Hang, the founder of the organization in late September 2016. The project faces a shortage of funds and the potential threat of epidemics.
“We can’t predict how long the shelter will remain operational. Of course, we will continue to support it. It might be a decade, depending how long the dogs live,” monk Tashi said, adding, “But we desperately need the local community’s tangible support; the efforts of the monastery and outside NGOs are not enough to fix the issue.”
Yin Hang said that, based on their studies, the best solution would be community involvement, educating locals to shoulder the responsibility for caring for dogs. “It is not the sole responsibility of the monastery. Maozhuang or neighboring communities in larger regions should all be involved and pro-active,” said Yin to our reporter, “The initiation of stray dog management by the local monastery in Maozhuang is definitely a good starting point, however, my suggestion is to set up a solid sound system and have locals adopt dogs.”
“I love dogs and I often feel pity for strays. But now I’m starting to realize if stray dogs are mixed in human communities, the situation becomes dangerous, since dogs are pack animals and can attack people in groups, threatening humans, particularly young children,” Zhang Lizhi, the bite victim, said: “It is the government’s responsibility to better manage the serious issue of stray dogs in Qinghai.”
Over the past decade, the central government has already poured billions of yuan into conserving the Sanjiangyuan (Three River Source) region of the Tibetan plateau where Maozhuang is situated. However, academics hotly contest whether the money has been effective in protecting the ecology and improving local people’s lives within the region. If Qinghai Province could use a fraction of the central funds for the ecological protection project into creating permanent homes for those stray dogs with veterinary care, the situation would be improved immediately.
Now during the winter when temperatures in Maozhuang reach minus 20 degrees, the dogs in the shelter face even harsher living conditions, especially given the limited number of doghouses. “We hope that some dog lovers could come and adopt a number of them, and if they come, we would be grateful for their kindness and help,” said monk Tashi.