As mentioned before, my animal-loving heart has credited me with numerous dog and cat rescues in China over the years. It’s been money and time well-spent to see all the doggies and kitties pulled from suffering through a tragic life on the streets or succumbing to horrendous deaths. It was a privilege for me to get them healthy and later find their forever homes with Chinese friends or, in some instances, pay for humane euthanization due to debilitating injuries or illnesses. I’ve never regretted inviting a little one into my home to make sure they were cared for in some way or other. That includes bringing two to the States: broken-jawed Chihuahua Little Old, in 2009, and currently mixed-Chi Bridget, in 2019. Both were easily brought to America, tucked safely in a carrier under my airline seat. It was not a difficult process: Health check-ups completed, authorized papers in hand, vaccinations proven, air-tickets purchased, airline procedures followed . . . A smooth landing into the country, a quick once-over by a customs’ officer and off we went on our continued journey to eventually land in Marshall, Illinois.
Here below see Bridget’s journey to America in 2019, followed by Lao-lao in 2009.
No quarantine. No lengthy wait in line. No hassles or questioning.
But recently, one of my animal rescue friends in Luzhou sent me a WeChat text and the link to our United States CDC announcement. She prefaced with, “Did you know about this?”
No. I didn’t.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces a temporary suspension in the importation of dogs from high-risk rabies-enzootic countries (hereinafter referred to as high-risk country or countries) into the United States. Due to the unprecedented global response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and limited availability of public health resources at the Federal, state, and local level, this action is necessary to protect the public health against the reintroduction of canine rabies virus variant (CRVV) into the United States and to ensure the welfare of dogs being imported into the U.S. This suspension, with limited exceptions, includes dogs imported from low-risk or CRVV-free countries if the dogs have been in any high-risk countries during the previous six months. The notice is effective July 14, 2021.”
It was also mentioned this temporary suspension would be in effect for an entire year.
133 countries were listed as high-risk, and China was among them.
My further research explained the reasons why. I read that, during Covid, animals entering the US had rabies despite their vaccination certificates seeming to be updated and health documents saying otherwise. Whether the rabies vaccines given were fake or certificates were inaccurate, the result was animals having to be euthanized at the airport or left in cages due to non-release policies and abandonment.
While the ban is fully understandable, I can’t tell you how such a devastating announcement will vitally affect rescues out of China. Most shelters in China are privately run by citizens who care about animals. Other so-called shelters are for the dog-eating market, still quite prevalent thoughout the country, especially in the winter. It is believed that dog meat will help keep a person warm in the winter. No matter how skinny or scrawny the animal is, dog meat is still a big selling point in China.
My Experience: A lesson learned about cultural sensitivity
My experience in the south with dogs sold as meat was a hard one for me to swallow. I had a 3-year placement in Guangxi Province, in a small town next to the Vietnam border where eating dog was as common as eating chicken or pork.
Upon arriving at my new home in Longzhou, my first day had me excitedly going to the open air market. It was a joyful event wandering the fruit booths to see southern offerings I’d never seen before: dragon fruit, star fruit, mangos, miniature bananas, lichee. . . Wow! This area of China was fantastic! I was going to love it here.
And then I meandered into the meat section of the market. The typical freshly butchered pigs, cows and plucked chickens lay across the wide wooden slabs of the sellers. I was used to that. But then came something I’d not seen prominently displayed in China’s central and northern markets, where my placements had been before.
In a far corner, next to the “exotic” animals’ cages crammed with hedgehogs, rats, and snakes, were the puppies and dogs.
I did my best to reason with this notion of “man’s best friend” being considered food.
Vietnam, not more than a 40-minute drive from my new home in Longzhou, had the same custom of consuming the unthinkable. With the two cultures being so near to one another, the southern Chinese and the Vietnamese, both would naturally follow similar habits of hoisting cooked canines onto the dinner table.
It made sense but it still didn’t sit well with Connie the animal lover.
Before that moment, I had prided myself in being able to adjust to any Chinese environment. So many years had I been in China! There was great confidence I could endure whatever was thrown at me with grace, understanding and tolerance. But I must say, that first venture into the Longzhou open-air market threw all my self-satisfied, cultural sensitivity smugness right out the window.
For the next 3 years I was teaching in the town, I never, ever went into that corner of the market again. I didn’t even caste my eyes in that direction. And if my students or friends came shopping with me, I made it a point to steer them in the opposite direction of where the dog-meat aisle was located, even if it would take us out of our way to our intended destination.
My greatest hope is that the ban will lift sooner than a year on importing rescues into the US. The 133 countries on the ban list are the ones where dogs and cats are in dire need of help. I would say the selected nations are without adequate funding for shelters, have few laws in place for animal protection and have more pressing concerns concentrating on people stricken by poverty. I absolutely understand the need to take care of people who are suffering but I hope we can find room to improve the lives of God’s little creatures as well, especially the rescues.
From Illinois, here’s wishing you Peace for your weekend, and snuggles with your favorite furry friend, if you have one.