By Cheryl Robbins

It is hard to spend any length of time in Taiwan without noticing the large numbers of stray animals on the street. 

In 1994, two women--animal lovers at heart-- wanted to do something to tackle this daunting problem, at least locally, and started the Taichung Universal Animal Preservation Association (TUAPA).  In the beginning, they didn't receive much support, and were even called crazy.  But, eventually, their determination and enthusiasm enabled them to find a group of volunteers dedicated to saving and protecting animals from life on the street and from human cruelty. 

The association takes its concepts of caring for animals and respect for life to local schools.  As Jimmy Lai, the association's manager put it, "The quickest way to bring about a positive change in how society treats animals is to educate the young, and let them take the lessons home and pass them on to their family members."

At its shelter located near CCK Air Base, TUAPA houses approximately 1,200 stray dogs.  It has another smaller shelter in the city for stray cats.  All of the animals in its care are spayed or neutered.  They receive proper medical attention and vaccinations, and every effort is made to provide a happy environment for them.

TUAPA depends solely on the help of private citizens, so there are many ways that Taichung residents can get involved in this worthwhile effort.  The easiest way is to make a donation.  This can be done through the post office (Account No. 21781702) or by telephone, fax or mail using a credit card (VISA, Mastercard, American Express, or JCB) (tel: 04-2372-4943 or 2372-5443; fax: 04-2372-5458; mailing address: P.O. Box 26-56, Taichung 404). 

Another way to get involved is to adopt or sponsor a cat or dog.  For those wanting to take a pet home, there is no fee involved.  You just need to leave a copy of your I.D. and sign a pledge that you will love and care for the animal, and not treat it cruelly.  The association follows up with new owners to make sure everything is working out. 

For those who have no space or time to take care of an animal, simply pay a sponsorship fee of NT$500-1,000 per month.  The sponsored animal can stay at the shelter where you can visit it whenever you have free time.

Or, you can use your free time to become a TUAPA volunteer. 

Yet another way to help the animals is not to contribute to the problem. For example, what do you do if you have a dog or cat and plan to leave Taiwan or if you are just tired of taking care of your pet or are unable to take care of it?  Instead of abandoning your pet to fend for itself on the streets, call the association.  The association will care for the dog or cat in its shelter and help you find a new home for it.  But, plan ahead, for you will need to be responsible for paying NT$1,500 per month to the association until a new home is found.

Although the stray animal problem looks almost impossible to solve now, Jimmy Lai remains optimistic that with education will come changes in the way society views and treats animals.  Until then, TUAPA needs all of the help and support it can get.

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