It’s a scene that dog lovers would only dream of: over 3,000 dogs of all shapes and sizes, with countless wet kisses and happy tail wags to offer around the clock.
But at one animal shelter in Taiwan, it’s a reality.
At Mrs. Hsu’s Sanctuary, a family-owned shelter opened five years ago, dogs outnumber people. Due to the country’s overabundance of stray dogs, the Hsu family slowly began taking in a small population of strays — and that number kept growing until, eventually, a Good Samaritan donated a large facility to serve as a proper shelter.
Now over 3,000 dogs live there as they await their forever homes.
Angel Wang began helping at the shelter four years ago when she, too, became aware of the large number of dogs in need in her neighborhood. Many volunteers dedicate endless hours to the pets.
Wang told The Dodo, “I truly adore dogs, but especially the stray dogs. “Due to the enormous number, our shelter has grown to be the biggest in Taiwan.”
Taiwan was the first nation to ever forbid the killing of stray dogs for the purpose of population control in February of last year. Instead, shelters, like Mrs. Hsu’s Sanctuary, are emphasizing spay and neuter programs more, which is a wonderful shift and should help increase awareness of the negative effects of reproducing.
While the bulk of the dogs at the shelter were found wandering the streets, several were also found in gin traps, which are steel spring traps set out by farmers to deter animals from crops, or they were saved from vehicle and motorcycle accidents. Typically, they snare unwary dogs in the process.
“We have a vet in our shelter, but if the dog has an injury that is too critical, they’re brought to a local animal hospital,” Wang said. “We have a number of dogs with missing legs or paralysis in the back legs.”
In addition to an array of full-time employees and volunteers, the shelter also has a special supporter who builds custom, low-cost wheelchairs for any dog resident who needs them.
The shelter offers large-scale grooming, a night area for the dogs to sleep in, and a separate room specifically for cats in addition to veterinary services.
Due to the fact that many of the dogs are stray and accustomed to being among other dogs, they often spend the day outside in the “park,” where they may play and go for walks with volunteers.
Wang especially enjoys the one-on-one time with the dogs — and has even met her best friend in the process. One day in December 2015, Wang spotted a shaggy, sweet-looking gray dog who had just been brought in as a stray.
“She was immediately very kind to me and wanted to sit on the floor and play all day,” Wang said. “Everytime I’d go in to volunteer, she would spot me and would walk beside me for the rest of the day. I eventually started calling her Huei Huei, which means ‘gray.’”
As the months rolled on, the time Huei Huei spent in the shelter turned into years. But Wang continued paying special care to her — and in March 2017, she officially brought her home.
“She touched my heart,” Wang said. “We became such good friends.”
People from all across the community labor around the clock to care for the dogs, even though there are undoubtedly more dogs than staff employees and volunteers. The organization is entirely supported by donations from locals who support its mission.