Mary Peng is the co-founder of the International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS), the first full service, international standard animal hospital and pet care facility in China. Mary is a certified Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) practitioner and teaches TNR best practices, as well as overseeing ICVS’ animal welfare and pet owner education programs, shelter medicine, and rabies vaccination programs. She is also an organizer for World Rabies Day and is a member of the board of directors at the Jane Goodall Institute China.
As spring arrives in Beijing, many families will be interested in adopting pets. Adopting a pet in Beijing is very easy, and ICVS highly recommends doing this. Consider adopting from the Adoptable Pets section of ICVS, which features animals from volunteer shelters, animal rescue groups, foster care providers, and pet owners needing to re-home their pets. The animals from these organizations, rescue volunteers, and owners are usually quite healthy and have good temperaments.
Breeding is a very new industry in China, and as a result is largely unregulated. In the local market, pets are bred for profit, meaning the animals are mated to produce many litters as quickly as possible. This results in poor health for the puppies and kittens, as their mothers were bred too frequently and cannot produce sufficient or nutritious milk for the babies. The puppies and kittens are usually weaned too early and sold well before the recommended 6 weeks of age. The faster the animals are sold, the higher the turnover and the more profit for the sellers.
In addition, most animal sellers (including those calling themselves “breeders”) may have brought only a few breed-specific animals into the market when entering the business. Therefore, the “purebred” animals especially, are likely to be inbred, which may result in life-long health or behavioral issues that may not become apparent until the animal is older. Each purchase of an animal supports the pets-for-profit industry and displaces the chances for an existing animal to find an adoptive home.
ICVS recently worked with several families that had purchased “purebred” puppies from ostensible "breeders." Four out of five of these puppies were diagnosed with canine distemper, parvovirus, or both. These highly infectious viral diseases were fatal in all cases, with the puppies dying within one to two weeks of purchase. The sole surviving puppy has battled chronic illnesses since the day it was purchased and requires ongoing medical care, significant financial expenses, and has caused much worry and frustration for the pet owner.
Some pet owners have had positive experiences with their purchased pets and the animals have turned out to healthy. However, these cases are in the minority. Purchasing pets in the current market involves a great deal of risk for the pet owner, as it is truly a “buyer beware” market.
Be very cautious of the animal sellers, pet markets, pet shops and so-called breeders. The state of the breeding industry in China today is extremely premature and differs greatly from that of more mature markets, where professional breeders are registered, monitored, subject to legal regulations, and held accountable for the animals they breed and sell. In the local market, anyone with a male and female animal can mate them to produce litters and claim that they are “breeders” through web sites, classified advertisements, or pet shops and animal markets. Buyers have little recourse in the event that the animal develops congenital or other health issues after purchase.
ICVS strongly encourages adoption. If you are looking for a puppy, kitten, dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster or turtle, there are usually many available for adoption. Please check the ICVS “Adoptable Pets” section of the web site or send ICVS an email directly. ICVS will help put you in contact with the many reputable animal rescue organizations, foster homes and owners that have beautiful pets available for adoption. Please adopt, don’t buy!
Photos courtesy of ICVS