Being an organization that's mission and focus is animals, there love for us and ours for them is very emotional. This emotion allows for some of the most heart-warming, tear jerking, lump in the throat stories you might ever hear. This emotion, the fact that we are all human also allows for some very sad, difficult, confusing and occasionally disturbing stories.
SCAA's purpose in conveying these stories is to educate and discuss the daily problems that this and similar organizations deal with. In fact, we tell these stories in optimism, because we always believe that things can (and will) be better. Knowing and understanding the truth of any matter is essential when trying to learn and grow.
Another purpose of these stories is to recognize the work of our volunteers. It is not always about animal rescue, care and fostering. Often, it is about making very hard decisions that are actually better in the long run for all involved.
Lastly, let us say that we do not intend to be accusatory or adversarial in anything we say. What we intend is to be honest and continue to contribute to an organization that is recognized globally as a model of animal welfare.
An Australian family approached Foster Care Director Lee-Anne at an adoption day about adopting a kitten. Knowing the family was from Australia, Lee-Anne mentioned the fact that importing animals directly to Australia is forbidden – animals from China must reside in an accepted country for six months prior to import into Australia with additional quarantine.
With this in mind, Lee-Anne mentioned that fostering might be a better option or adoption if they were not going to return to Australia or could guarantee personally re-homing the cat with another family. The woman immediately became irate, said she had no “crystal ball” to see the future and that once adopted, it’s none of SCAA’s business what she does with the animal. Au contraire. The future welfare of the animals we adopt out is our ONLY concern. Lee-Anne politely continued to say we want to ensure that our animals are not abandoned and are considered lifelong commitments. The woman replied that she is a responsible pet owner and that she only wanted a straight answer from us, yes or no, about whether she could adopt a pet from SCAA. Not knowing what this woman’s plans for any cat she adopted from us would be, we said that the answer was no.
We actually felt that this would be a fine family to become adopters to, but with this kind of attitude toward an organization that protects animal welfare, we felt our answer was the correct one.
Outcome: We have now decided to include a section on the website about Australian import regulations and providing information so that Australian adopters know there are hard decisions to make.
Australia Pet Import Requirements
Our hotline received a call from an American woman who originally planned to take back her “China” cat to the U.S. but now had too much luggage and decided she would only take her “American” cat home and wanted SCAA to take her cat to re-home.
Foster Care Director Lee-Anne patiently explained that we are not a pet re-homing service and are overwhelmed re-homing abandoned animals. Furthermore, she was giving us only four days notice before her departure which is too sudden for us to do much on her behalf, especially as we had no foster parents available!
Lee-Anne suggested that the woman and her husband ship some luggage and take the cat instead. The woman replied that they were broke and her husband wanted to put the cat out on the street. Both agreed this would mean likely death for the cat, so Lee-Anne said we would do our best to find a foster care parent as a top priority. She then explained that as this is a service and that it would most likely take many months to re-home an adult cat. Because of this, we would lose an opportunity for one of our own foster cats to find a home should her cat be adopted instead of one of ours; therefore, we would require a donation of RMB 1,000 (as who knows if her cat was really healthy….once SCAA takes the cat, all medical responsibilities are ours…!).
The caller became furious and said that SCAA obviously only cares about money; that she would be willing to give RMB 50 or 100, and that SCAA should pay HER for giving us such a nice cat to re-home (what are we, a pet store?!). Lee-Anne again tried to explain what SCAA is and how we are all volunteers, the organization depends on donations to survive, and that our mandate is to save abandoned and abused animals, not re-home pets. The lady again cursed us for only caring about money and hung up. We never heard from her again and can only image what happened to the cat.
Outcome: We have now put up a section on our policy for re-homing animals, as well as for third party adoptions.
Our directors often get calls of this nature (at least in an email we can usually explain in detail and people are forced to read before replying without thought…more or less!) and it is upsetting to be accused of not caring about animals. It is incredibly frustrating dealing with people not wanting to assume responsibility, trying to foist animals upon us and walking away feeling like THEY “saved” an animal, alleging we’re making profits and not doing enough to save animals. Some people get hostile when reminded that we do not have enough foster parents, and angry that SCAA is not a shelter. By putting up more information on our website, we are able to tell callers to look at the website to better understand what we do, thereby not wasting our time, efforts and emotional energy!
SCAA’s hotline received a phone call from an expatriate who had been living in Chengdu with his girlfriend. They have a small pet dog. He now was spending most of his time in Shanghai, without his girlfriend, and living in a hotel with his dog. He told us he worked Monday through Friday and it was not possible to leave the dog alone in the hotel during this period and he needed our help.
We of course assumed he wanted us to re-home his dog and told him about the need for a medical check-up and donation to take on his long-term fostering, etc. But, he then informed us that he did not want to re-home his pet, but just for SCAA to take care of his dog Monday-Friday and he would take the dog on the weekends; could we find someone (for free of course) to share his pet with him?
Outcome: SCAA is not “rent-a-pet.” Our concern is only for the long-term welfare of the animals in our care and a stable, permanent home with one family. We will not “adopt” out animals on a short-term basis, and people should only adopt SCAA animals if they agree that they are providing a home for their pet forever. (Emergencies do happen when people have to return to their home country suddenly and cannot take their pets with them). We have re-homing policies on the website.
I cannot keep my pet.
Founder Carol Wolfson received an email three months after a kitten had been adopted saying that the adoptive family found out they had to move to another country in five months and could not take their beloved SCAA adopted kitten along (adopted when it was about seven weeks old, so now it is about five months).
Carol replied by saying five months would provide plenty of time to adopt out an older kitten and that they should bring the animal to PAW for a check-up and then to adoption days. We did not hear from this family again until 10 days before they were ready to leave the country. Carol again received an email saying they had enjoyed the cat (now 10 months old and not as easy to adopt out) and SCAA would need to come pick up the cat within three days, plus they felt as they had made an initial donation of RMB 500 when they adopted the kitten, they need not make any further financial contribution to the long-term care of the cat once back with SCAA. We replied with a long email explaining that the family had not been pro-active in bringing the cat to adoption day and that it would be nearly impossible for us to take possession of the cat again within three days.
Luckily we had a couple of foster parents available and we said we would take the kitten back after a check-up and a financial donation as SCAA would need to provide all future medical care, plus it might take many months to find an adoptive home for this now young adult cat. We never heard back from the family again and we do hope that they found a loving family to take the cat that they had told SCAA was precious to them.
Outcome: SCAA deals with 50+ animals on any given day and it is not our responsibility to call and remind people who want to re-home their pets that they need to come to adoption days. Demanding that SCAA pick up and take back an adopted animal within three days is irresponsible and simply not feasible. If these people truly loved their adopted pet, they would have used those five months to work pro-actively with SCAA to find a permanent loving home before they left. It is also necessary to make a substantial donation when re-homing a pet, even if adopted from SCAA, as we need to use our funds to rescue and heal sick and abandoned animals, not to provide free boarding for those abandoning their pets.
We urge anyone who needs to leave their pets behind to actively find a home for their animals, or to work with SCAA pro-actively and with as much time as possible so that we can find an appropriate foster or adoptive home.
We received an email from a Canadian lady whose brother had left her with his two cats when he left Shanghai suddenly. We told her we could help her to find a foster home if she took the animals to PAW, and made a donation.
We did not hear from her for months and then suddenly received an email saying she had lost her job and had to leave Shanghai in less than two weeks, and she could not afford to make a donation of RMB 500 for each animal for SCAA to provide medical care and find a foster home. We replied and said that if she could make a token donation of RMB 100 for each animal just for the consultation/check-up, we would waive the other RMB 800, but she would need to take the animals for the check-up and there would be time for her to come to one adoption day with the cats. She replied to say she could not make any donation at all and that she was too busy to bring the animals to the vet or to come to an adoption day and we just needed to come get the cats right away. We explained that we are not a shelter, nor do we have transportation and that we are all volunteers and depend on donations to survive. We did not hear back from this lady.
She then went to PAW vet clinic, pretended she was having the cats checked, filled in false personal information and when the staff was looking elsewhere, she ran out the door (the staff thought she was going back to a car to get something). We knew it must be these two poor cats being dumped and contacted the lady by phone (as we had her phone number from the email she had sent to us). She stated she felt she was acting responsibly by bringing the animals to the vet instead of dumping them on the street. We explained that this was simply irresponsible period and she agreed to make a donation via the website PayPal link in the future (which we still have not received).
We provided these terrified cats with medical care and vaccinations, and then put them in a loving foster home. One cat has already been adopted and the other we hope will be soon.
Outcome: This entire situation could have been avoided if the woman just attempted to cooperate with SCAA. We are extremely flexible and treat every single animal with respect, dignity and love and on a case-by-case basis. She did bring them to PAW in the end, only to dump them. By doing this, we did not even have their medical history. If she had the time to bring them to PAW, then she certainly could have found RMB 200 to donate and if she had brought them to the adoption day, we would have taken them from her to be fostered. We have never deserted an animal in need when the person asking for help has been sincere and it is within our mandate and abilities to assist. Many people calling us think that their situation is the only one that SCAA is dealing with, or do not take into account that we are all volunteers. Being cruel, mean, angry, or attacking us personally for not being able to assist is unkind at best and it deeply hurts SCAA volunteers who dedicate time on top of families, jobs, and their own pets.
We get many phone calls from people who have found abandoned animals and urgently want SCAA to assist. We tell them we are neither a shelter nor a humane society, and that we do not pick up the animals. They have to take responsibility for the animals themselves. They often agree to bring the animal to the vet, but then do not follow through. These are people who say they will go pick up the animal after they speak to us, then we never hear from them again. This does not happen when people email us because we then have their email addresses and can follow-up easily.
We have made several appointments for people at PAW but the “emergency” animal does not arrive and PAW then PAW has lost a slot that could be used for another SCAA animal or their own clients.
Outcome: If you are not serious about saving an animal, or helping SCAA save an animal, walk past it and do not call SCAA to do all the dirty work. There are people out there who want to feel good about themselves by “saving” an animal when all they really are doing is passing the responsibility to others. It breaks our hearts to receive calls and know there is an animal that was seen by someone but then not helped; we cannot save all the abandoned animals in Shanghai and we cannot even save all the ones people do call us about but refuse to foster until we can find a foster family. We hope these people did the right thing but in the end they must live with their conscience.
This is a tragic incident which SCAA hopes never to witness again. One of SCAA’s sweet rescued dogs, a small young adult male poodle we called Jack, was fostered by an American woman we believed very nice and who was very eager to foster a dog. We also met her Italian boyfriend the day they chose to foster Jack.
A couple of weeks later, SCAA founder Carol Wolfson, received a phone call from the man about 10pm, saying the poodle had a bit of urine in its blood. Carol told him to call our vet and if it seemed serious to take the dog in for an emergency visit that night. A few minutes later the vet called Carol to say this is not what had happened. Apparently, Jack had defecated in the house while the foster mother was out, and the man came back to the house to find Jack and his mistake. He hit the poodle and the poodle bit him in defense. At that time, the man then kicked the dog ferociously and threw him against the wall. He did take the dog in to the vet and admitted what he had done, saying he was used to using a firm hand with large dogs back in Italy. The vet told him to leave and he would call him the next day.
Jack was treated medically as best as possible and sedated but he did not make it through the night. We were able to reach the foster mother who was devastated. The man had made an initial payment at the vet when he brought the dog in, and the woman promised to pay the balance as soon as possible. We asked for a written apology as well as this payment, but have since heard nothing from them, and they do not answer their phone, emails or sms. There is also an outstanding bill of RMB 2,600.
Outcome: We have always interviewed our foster parents carefully, and the boyfriend of this lady seemed quite nice. We believe there is no way we could have known of this man’s temper problems, but it is beyond tragic that this ever happened. In Europe or the U.S., we could have involved the police for a criminal charge, but here in China we could only ask them to apologize and pay the remaining balance. We believe these people might have left Shanghai by now. It does prove that cruelty exists everywhere and it heightens our awareness to be even more careful who we choose to be caretakers of our beloved companion animals in need. This man will have to live with Jack’s death on his conscience forever, although this is of little solace to those of us that loved this tiny little poodle.
Many people who come to China for the first time might not be aware of the disgusting trade in overbred and sickly animals. They might not know that buying one in a market means they're making a space for more animals to be pumped into this cruel industry. SCAA provides information on how these animals are overbred and kept in appalling conditions. Too many people learn the hard way - heartbreak when their animal dies shortly after being purchased. There are no reputable breeders in China.
Most people are relieved to defer plans to buy from a market when they find out what's really going on. Its hard to walk by a needy animal in a cage at these horrible places, but buying one - even for a token amount - only fuels the industry. If a shop owner will give you a sickly animal for free - that's another story.
The other day, a woman was introduced to an SCAA director as a dog-lover and a potential adopter. The woman admitted that she had already gotten a dog. When asked from where - she said a pet market. Her next response was "yes, I know better". When told she was very luck her dog even survived and that she would be doing a good thing telling others not to buy animals, she indicated she wasn't sorry she purchased a dog because he is a great dog and the family loves him.
Outcome: Not buying pets from these markets has nothing to do with how social and loyal this pet would be - assuming it would be one of the few that survived more than a week or two. It's about doing your small part to eventually stop the over-breeding, the overcrowding, and the pumping of sick animals with antibiotics to make a quick buck. If you know better, then wait for a healthy adoptable dog from SCAA. If you speak any Chinese at all - feel free to let shopkeepers with sick animals in overcrowded cages know what you think.
Only when we insist on humane treatment for market animals, will it even become a possibility. When the buying stops, the selling stops.
This is a difficult Hall of Shame story to write. It's about a well-meaning but seriously misguided animal lover and her 6 cats - 4 of which were handed over to SCAA within hours of the family leaving China. Some people think that by taking in animals off the street and providing basic shelter, knowing full well they can't keep them, is a good deed. This is a story of a family under this misconception and how 4 adult cats are now looking for a home through SCAA.
A couple years ago, a family arrived in Shanghai from the U.K. They brought their 2 lovely cats with them - an expensive and difficult process but worth it to have your loving pets with you. While here, the mother took in 4 kittens from the garden. These kittens grew to become 4 large cats. They were never vaccinated and speyed or neutered despite a couple trips to the vet for some emergency care. Since the cats were allowed outside (a potential Hall of Shame waiting to happen...) the males most likely contributed to an already overburdened cat population.
Set to leave China within 24 hours, the new homes the mother had arranged for 4 of 6 the cats fell through. All 6 cats were being left behind - including the 2 brought over from the U.K. as it was apparently "too difficult" and "too expensive" to bring them back. This is one of the most frustrating parts of this story. Everyone at SCAA can only imagine how heartbreaking it is for the family to leave their pets in China, but this horrible situation is entirely preventable.
Being responsible with your pets and with animals you find on the street means more than providing temporary shelter, food and TLC. All the love and affection the family provided over the past year can't make up for the serious challenges these cats now face.
Outcome: Being an animal-lover means respecting your limitations as a pet owner / animal rescuer. Some basic rules to live by:
Our hearts go out to the family but more importantly to the 4 loving adult cats newly added to the SCAA foster animal family. Thanks to the family's donation, SCAA will provide overdue medical treatment like vaccinations and de-sexing. Unfortunately, it's too little too late. If you see yourself in this story, we hope it inspires change. SCAA has the resources to assist found animals and pets - but people need to work with us in a responsible way.
Postscript: SCAA Founder Carol Wolfson here. There is an addition to the Hall of Shame story above. When in frustration on the phone with the woman above who wanted us to take her four cats from her in less than 24 hours, I explained that this was completely irresponsible pet ownership as not only did she give us no time to find foster parents (of which we currently have none available during the holiday period), but her 10-month old cats had not been given vaccinations, check-ups nor spayed/neutered. It's impossible to place near-adult cats like this in foster homes, most of which have one pet or more, until the cats are checked and deemed healthy; she obviously did not have time to follow our guidelines and yet expected us to take the cats unquestioningly. In reply to my direct questioning, she remarked "If you don't take the cats, YOU are condemning them to death." I admittedly lost my temper as no one involved in SCAA deserves to be the recipient of this kind of cruel, ignorant remark. SCAA is saving lives. This woman had four cats she needed to place and did nothing to ensure her beloved pets had homes prior to her departure, stating the people who planned to adopt her pets didn't come through (if these were my precious pets, I'd have about 5 contigency plans in place...). We have over 50 foster animals on any given day and between 10-30 calls/abandoned animal issues to deal with daily. Dedicated SCAA members, foster parents and directors spend up to 20 hours each day making a difference in the lives of needy companion animals here in Shanghai. Ultimately, if SCAA did not exist to help this woman, she indeed would have been the person condemning her own cats to abandonment or worse. For shame.
A former foster parent recently advised SCAA of certain allegations in the community about SCAA. Since this foster parent may have contributed to misrepresentations about SCAA policies and procedures, SCAA has decided to address certain accusations publicly to put an end to spiteful rumors and gossip. The allegations are addressed below.
Allegation: SCAA is prejudiced against people from certain countries
SCAA Response: If this allegation is related to adoption, then SCAA welcomes people from any country to contact us about adopting an SCAA animal provided responsible pet ownership can be ascertained. This means making a lifetime commitment when adopting a pet. Repatriating your animal when you return to your home country is an SCAA requirement for adoption approval.
Unfortunately, some countries have lengthy and expensive quarantine (the UK, Hong Kong and Sweden), while other countries have an outright ban on the direct import of animals from China (Australia and New Zealand). Spending 6 months in an approved country (with its own quarantine) will get around the ban and allow an animal to pass through quarantine again once home.
Given these animal-import restrictions, SCAA is extremely cautious adopting out to people from these countries. However, in our history of over 350 adoptions, we have gladly placed a number of SCAA animals with people from the above countries who have assured us that they are able and willing to go through lengthy quarantine in the UK, HK and Sweden or that they will avoid an import ban because they are not going directly home from China or will go through a third country to get their pet home.
Anyone putting the animals' best interest first can't challenge this policy with any credibility. It is not a personal attack against people of any specific nationality. Anybody willing to openly admit that they only want a temporary pet without any plan for re-homing because they cannot take the pet home in a few years are thinking exclusively of themselves and not of the long-term welfare of the pet. Thankfully, SCAA has only had to deal with a very small number of people like this. The Australian woman profiled in the Hall of Shame (No. 1), who bluntly advised it was none of SCAA's concern what she did with an animal once she adopted it, is an unpleasant example.
That said, SCAA has always offered a fostering option to people who love animals but cannot easily repatriate a pet due to animal import restrictions. Some foster parents have personally admonished their less responsible countrymen/women for wanting to adopt in circumstances where an animal would not be taken back home. Bravo and thanks for the support.
Allegation: SCAA is accusing foster parents of abusing pets when they are only trying their best
SCAA Response: This accusation is serious and is certainly unfounded.
There is a difference between a foster parent neglecting their responsibilities towards SCAA (e.g. attending Adoption Day and relinquishing the care of a foster animal to another person without advising SCAA of new contact information) and foster parents abusing an animal. Enforcing administrative rules has been a challenge with very few foster parents. Housing a foster animal for several months without attending any Adoption Days or without keeping in touch with SCAA is a violation of fostering policies and not an example of people trying their best, even if a foster animal is well-cared for.
Unfortunately, there have been few cases where a foster parent's judgment was lacking. In some cases, the animals suffered or died as a result. Everyone was devastated in these circumstances and no doubt the foster parents wish they had done things differently. Hindsight is 20/20 and SCAA expects people to learn from their mistakes and move on, as we do.
One case of outright abuse has occurred and our foster dog Jack was deliberately hit / thrown and died from his injuries. The foster parent and the person living with the foster parent (who killed Jack) then left SCAA with a medical care bill for the attempt to save Jack from his injuries. These people then avoided phone calls and changed their e-mail. Jack's story is in the Hall of Shame (No. 7).
These animals' tragic deaths speak for themselves and any person wishing to debate this topic further should be prepared to do so publicly and face open scrutiny from SCAA directors and supporters on their position.
Allegation: "SCAA is more concerned with their own pride, and less with the welfare of the animals".
Anyone regularly involved with SCAA operational and event activities knows this is simply not true. The welfare of our rescued animals is our only concern. Enough said.
Allegation: People have also repeated comments from you, such as 'we are not rent-a-pet'.
SCAA Response: This is a colloquial expression that has come about with good reason.
Despite all SCAA efforts at writing and posting clear fostering and adoption policies on our thorough website and in e-mails, we continue to deal with people who simply want to use SCAA as a means of having a temporary pet in Shanghai until such time as they are ready to go home and give the animal back to us. Some of these people get indignant when we refuse to accommodate them.
Foster parents being absent from Adoption Days without good reason (e.g. working, illness, etc, which of course we understand) or at least notifying SCAA to try and make alternate arrangements, are looking to keep their foster animal for themselves for as long as possible. Getting emotionally attached to a foster animal is normal and a good thing, but holding a foster animal back from meeting potential adopters is not acceptable.
Adoption is forever. With this in mind, SCAA is still having to correct some people's expectation that we will temporarily adopt out a cat or dog to them and then take the animal back when the people leave Shanghai. After designing such an honest website, where the expression "rent-a-pet" isn't used outright but certainly the message gets across, it's frustrating to keep having to deal with this misconception. SCAA does not lend cats and dogs to lonely animal lovers in Shanghai. We are healing, fostering and adopting out animals to good permanent homes.
If anybody is offended by the expression that SCAA is not a "rent-a-pet" service, then we recommend they take a few weeks to work directly with us on fostering and adoption enquiries. If you are a responsible person, it's hard to imagine there are many people out there who do not share your pet ownership standards.
A recent e-mail query from March 2007:...if we decide to adopt, would you be able to take the animal back when we leave Shanghai? Could we just take the animal 6 months or for a couple of years...
There are hundreds of similar e-mails, phone calls or Adoption Day conversations. We end up using this expression because it is a simple phrase that gets the meaning through...