Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
25 October 2000

By Mina Sharpe, [email protected]/net
Director, Taipei Abandoned Animal Rescue Foundation

I am 18 now. When I was 12 years old my parents were hired as teachers for the Taipei American School. So we moved with our two dogs, and my beloved horse, to hot, humid and gross Taiwan at the beginning of my 7th grade year.

I went, I hated it, and wanted to go back. Shortly after we moved I saw a dog in a pet shop window. I told my parents if they bought her for me, I'd stop hating them for bringing me here.

In an act of desperation, they bought Lydia, but unfortunately, I still hated them for bringing me here for quite awhile longer. <grin>

Lydia was the beginning of my affair with Taiwan dogs. She was the first inkling I had of the problems dogs have in Taiwan (at 6 months old, she had never been out of a cage and had no idea how to walk.) She also had a horrible case of ringworm. All of this was so startling as she had come from a prestigious breeder. (We paid over $400 for her.)

The same year I moved to Taiwan, and soon after getting Lydia, I began the Animal Rescue Club at my school, the Taipei American School (TAS). It began so small, even to the point that myself and the few other members went around to vets *asking* if they had any animals needing to find homes. Slowly, one by one, and mistake and accomplishment each taken one at a time, the Animal Rescue Club has developed into the internationally known, and only Taiwan based, no kill, not for profit animal rescue organization, the Taipei Abandoned Animal Rescue Foundation (T-AARF).

It wasn't meant to grow into what it is now, which is probably good -- had we started off with the scope that is there today, things never would have gotten off the ground. Being young and foreign in Taiwan, I was able to go around and "save" a few dogs here and there in the beginning without much bother or problems.

The local people called me the crazy "mei-gwo" (white person) but usually it was all in good jest, and if the vets wanted to tease me, but still let me keep the dogs at their offices, it was certainly worth it.

Unfortunately for the vets I have worked with, the "mei-gwo" that they thought would drop out of this line of work soon after I started 6 years ago, hasn't quite left the building yet!

My T-AARF shelter is in their back room at the Yang Ming Veterinary Clinic in Taipei, Taiwan. We have dogs in 10 cages, which comfortably holds about 15 small-med sized dogs. Our average capacity is 30 dogs, with several being med-large sized. 90% of our dogs go overseas for homes, because homes in Taiwan are scarce, especially for adult, larger, or mixed breed dogs.

Rescued dogs in general are considered bad luck, and so aren't considered when a family in Taiwan is looking for a pet. A majority of our dogs are disabled, abused, or older. We accept them all, in every condition and with every problem. Sometimes it can be easier to find a home for a dog with a problem than one without, but we take in both cases, regardless.

We are completely no kill, except to euthanize in situations where a dog has no quality of life, or a fatal or painful condition that cannot be remedied. We deal with heartworm, tumors, lesions, major skin problems and puppies on a daily basis. We have also dealt with dogs that were paralyzed, have neurological problems, blind, deaf, amputees, recovering from major medical problems, cancer and a plethora of other things. All the dogs have been treated by our vet thanks to his selfless donation of his time and services, and have been shipped to homes overseas where they are living out their lives as beloved members of families.

When we are at or (as usual) beyond capacity and people bring us stray dogs we cannot place, they are neutered and released back on the streets, and tagged with our name. We do this in case they are picked up by the government, we can reclaim them, and they will not be killed. There are several hundred dogs on the streets of Taipei that for one reason or another would not have been possible to be adopted out (mostly larger, streetwise, or feral dogs that live life in safe areas on the streets), and have been neutered/spayed and tagged with our clearance. These dogs will be able to live out their natural lives on the streets, without being able to procreate.

I graduated from High School in June, and have since moved back to Southern California for school (don't know where yet, but eventually would like to go into veterinary medicine).

I now have 7 dogs, 4 of whom are Taiwan strays, that are all coming home with me. In my move in June from Taipei to California, I brought 27 dogs with me, all of whom were sent to homes, foster homes, or preapproved shelters all over the United States where they have since all found homes.

I've also rescued dogs in Thailand and Bali - the latter was a tiny puppy who I brought to California five months later, the former is Mai Thai, a paralyzed stray who has her own story on...

T-AARF is no kill, but we cannot save all the dogs in Taiwan. We feel that it is "Better to save the few, than to do nothing at all." But we do all we can to spread the idea both in Taiwan and abroad that, to paraphrase FIDO NYC founder Bernadette Peters "there is nothing wrong with stray dogs -- they are just homeless".

Even though I have moved back, I am now making bi-monthly trips to Taipei, where I will rescue a certain amount of Taiwan dogs, and bring them back to preapproved homes and shelters in North America. Everything we do is funded solely by private donations, and they are always desperately needed. We average donations of less than $1000 a month, but it can cost us anywhere from $300-$1000 a dog to complete their rescue, rehabilitation and transportation to their new homes abroad. Without funds, we cannot continue our work.

Anyone interested in adopting a Taiwan dog, or finding out more about our group is welcome to email me at [email protected], or visit our website at

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