Homeless Stray Cats, Dogs from China Being Flown to Seattle Despite Recent Rabies Outbreak in Taiwan

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
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Thirteen stray animals are scheduled to be flown to Seattle as part of a cross-ocean adoption program, the Animal Rescue Tea Taiwan (ARTT) reported in an Aug. 17 article in the China Post.

The cats and dogs were rescued from the streets in southern Taiwan's Liouciou Township and are being allowed to fly to the United States to seek new homes, despite the recent rabies outbreak on the island, said Ni Ching-tai, a volunteer in charge of foreign adoptions in ARTT.

Taiwan reported a total of 87 cases of rabies as of Saturday. All but one of the cases is in 42 townships across nine counties and cities involved.

The stray animals being imported are only required to be vaccinated and undergo health examinations before entering the United States, the China Post states.

“Animal catchers have received a higher number of reports about stray animals since July when rabies cases were confirmed,” the volunteer added.

Because of the outbreak, domestic-animal adoptions are down in Taiwan.

Taiwanese families are not willing to take on the risk of rabies in new pets and more pet owners have abandoned their dogs and cats, Ni said.

Rabies is a viral disease which, when contracted, affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals, including cats, dogs and humans.

The rabies virus can incubate in the body anywhere from one week to more than a year before becoming active. When the virus does become active, symptoms appear quickly, and the virus is almost 100-percent fatal.

There is no accurate test to diagnose rabies in live animals. The direct fluorescent antibody test is the most accurate test for diagnosis, but it can only be performed after the death of the animal.

Taitung reported on a rabid Asian house shrew in late July, and new cases have been identified in both Tainan City and Pingtung County, the Central Epidemic Command Center confirmed. Health authorities said they will continue putting efforts into immunizing the cats and dogs in the mountains, where interaction with wild animals is more likely to take place.

Ni expressed gratitude to animal welfare groups in the United States for helping the group of furry creatures find new homes there, according to the Tapei Times.

An online search of shelters in Seattle seeking adopters for homeless animals indicates that there is a serious homeless pet problem in that area, as there is all across the United States.

The Humane Society estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom about 3-4 million are euthanized.

The National Animal Interest Alliance, based in Portland, Ore., explains that, “Even before considering the health issues, it is a reckless and indefensible practice to import stray animals into a country that pours hundreds of millions of public and private dollars annually [and has for decades] into animal control and 'pet overpopulation' problems.”

However, as we are becoming increasingly aware that hundreds — if not thousands — of public and private shelters, unregulated “rescue” organizations and even individuals with often with no history or training in animal health, welfare or sheltering are arranging interstate transports and importing homeless animals from foreign countries.

Some of the shelters NAIA tracked were bringing in 100-200 dogs each month and are placing them for $200-$250 each at the time of the report. Projecting from figures on the website of one active shelter, the report states, gross revenues from imports that include a constant supply was estimated to total more than $500,000 a year.

The rescued animals from Taiwan and many other countries are not pets, but strays from the streets and therefore are among the most likely reservoirs for parasites and diseases, their report states. In addition, the animals are being brought into communal shelters where they are most likely to pass on whatever diseases or parasites they have to other companion animals, employees, volunteers caregivers and also carry them into temporary foster homes and even to potential adopters.

The NAIA also clearly analyzes public health issues from importing. The following is excerpted from their report, “Humane or Insane?”

Imports from other countries displace American shelter dogs that need homes. The importation of strays does not save lives, it sustains overpopulation and assures that adoptable dogs in U.S. shelters will be euthanized.

The current scale of importation also poses significant public health risks. These animals, destined to be domestic pets, are from countries where the standards of veterinary medicine are not as high as they are in the U.S.

Some diseases and parasites pose serious health risks for human health as well as for other species. Dogs are a leading vector for rabies in many poor countries. Currently, the only thing required for a dog to enter the U.S. is a health certificate and proof of a rabies shot.

Given the incubation period for rabies, from five days to several years, with 20-60 days being the norm, unquarantined importation of street dogs from poor countries with low rates of vaccination for rabies. It is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Sources: Taipe Times, China Post, NAIA Online