Poppy, a young golden retriever, was found wandering the streets north of Shanghai before she was rescued and brought to the US.
Claire Mracek and her family were mourning the loss of their child before Poppy came into their lives and provided joy and comfort. But now, a recent ban by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the import of dogs from more than 100 countries where rabies is a problem, means dogs like Poppy can no longer be brought in from China.
“Our rescuer was able to pick Poppy up before she was shot,” said Stephanie Kenney, director of intake with Adopt A Golden Atlanta. Poppy was then thoroughly checked by veterinarians, given vaccines and spayed. Once she was medically cleared she flew from Bejing to start her new life in the US.
Claire Mracek lost her 3-year-old daughter to a rare form of pediatric cancer earlier this year. “The depths of this loss for our family is indescribable, especially for our 2-year-old son who lost his best friend. His grief has been absolutely heartbreaking to witness,” Mracek said.
A friend recommended an emotional support dog for her son and that’s where Poppy came into the picture.
“We met (in Atlanta) and she connected with our son pretty instantly as she is loving, playful and loves to play ball outside. We adopted her shortly afterwards and she has been such a blessing to our family already. She has provided joy and unconditional love to us during our darkest days,” Mracek added.
Lauren Genkinger, the president and founder of Adopt A Golden Atlanta, said in a statement that the organization is relieved to be able to save these Golden Retrievers. “We have always believed it doesn’t matter where they come from – It just matters where they end up. We can’t wait to find them loving homes.”
The CDC said the reasons for the current ban are the import of three rabies-infected dogs since 2015, some cases of falsified rabies certificates and the coronavirus pandemic response that has stretched their resources. But this blanket decision is affecting dog rescue missions who are trying to rescue dogs from China among other places.
Reason for the ban
According to Humane Society International, an estimated 30 million dogs a year are killed across Asia for their meat, some 10-20 million in China alone.
“The alternative to rescue for literally tens of thousands of healthy dogs abroad is that they will continue to suffer in brutal conditions abroad or be swept up in the illegal dog meat trade instead of getting the opportunity to live as a beloved family member (in the US),” said Peter Fitzgerald who is on the board of directors of Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue and is responsible for overseeing international operations.
In Beijing it is illegal to keep dogs taller than 1.1 feet which means that dogs such as Golden Retrievers are banned and can be locked up and put down if they are caught by authorities.
“So when cute Golden puppies grow into adult dogs they are too big and abandoned on the streets where they become ill and die or are stolen for the illegal meat trade,” Fitzgerald added.
What the groups want
Dog rescue organizations in the US that bring in dogs from China support the CDC’s mission to keep the country free of rabies. But, they are appealing to the CDC to allow them to work together on incorporating equally effective alternative solutions to the current import restrictions so they can continue to save the lives of dogs.
“What we would like to see the CDC do is reopen dog imports from all designated high-risk rabies countries to any importer, who can properly document that the dogs are vaccinated against rabies and immune to rabies, with an antibody test from an approved lab,” Fitzgerald said. He added that the European Union and United Kingdom follow similar methods.
“With room in our kennels, and adopters willing to take these dogs, this simply reflects the notion that compassion is not bounded by geography or national boundaries,” he added.
Gabrielle Petersen director of Lucky Dog Rescue for small breeds said dogs of all sizes and breeds are being used for meat, fur and animal testing.
Petersen said there are many dogs waiting for their chance to come to the US for a chance at a better life. On top of loss of life, the cost to maintain rescue buildings, dog food and care continues to build in China without any dogs getting out for adoption. “We will never abandon our dogs in China. We have made a promise to them and we will never turn our backs on them,” she added.
The rescues say the dogs rescued from China have been social and transitioned very well in a short time to becoming wonderful family pets.
The mission of China Rescue Dogs in North Carolina is to rescue dogs from the meat trade in China and provide them with loving homes in the US and Canada. In the last two years they have rescued over 600 dogs and have strict protocols in place to ensure they are bringing in healthy dogs.
“We are their only hope. We’re the voice for the voiceless. There are no animal rights in China, there is no hope for these dogs,” said Jill Stewart, president of China Rescue Dogs. She added that the rescue makes sure the dogs are vaccinated correctly in China, well cared for when they come into the US and meet all CDC requirements.