TAIPEI, Taiwan – It's not just people worrying about losing their homes amid the global economic downturn. Now, even Taiwanese canines face being dumped from their dog houses.
Coinciding with the local stock market plunge and a jump in the jobless rate in Taiwan, local animal rescuers say more and more dogs are being abandoned as owners look for ways to cut expenses.
Taking note of the problem, authorities in the capital of Taipei are trying to keep better track of dogs and their owners in a bid to prevent abandonment.
Tung Kuan-fu, chief executive of the Taiwan Life Caring and Animal Rescue Organization, said his group has seen a marked increase in the number of dogs it has treated since the downturn began, especially larger breeds.
He said in the last three months his organization saved about 30 large-sized stray dogs, including Old English sheepdogs and golden retrievers, compared to 10 in the three months before that.
"Large dogs tend to be thrown away during a slowing economy," Tung said, explaining that owners can save $152-$303 a month by abandoning them.
Taiwan has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, with the local stock index plummeting 46 percent from its peak in May and the unemployment jumping to 4.27 percent in September, high for Taiwan.
Chen Wen-mei, a 44-year-old Buddhist follower who runs a private shelter in the Taipei suburb of Linkou, said many Taiwanese are reluctant to spend the money to care for their dogs when they themselves are feeling the economic pinch.
She said she took in about 17 abandoned dogs in one week last month.
Yen I-feng, director of the Taipei Municipal Institute for Animal Health, said city authorities are now strictly enforcing a law requiring dog owners to have their pets implanted with microchips. The microchips allow authorities to trace abandoned dogs back to their owners.
Yen said those caught abandoning their pets are subject to a fine of $455.
Chen keeps about 300 dogs in her 6,500-square-foot shelter, a gritty, tin-roofed building littered with plastic containers for food and drinking water.
Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, huskies, beagles and various other dogs blend together happily and fawn over Chen.
"The dogs got their rights and they have lives too. It's just that they cannot talk," she said as she petted some nearby dogs.
But Chen said with her pack of pooches growing by the day even she is worried about how she is going to feed so many mouths in these tough economic times.
She said the shelter only raised about $910 this month. "This is not even enough to feed my dogs," she said.