FEATURE: Staying Positive Turns Evicted Animal Sanctuary into Taiwan's Model

FEATURE: Staying Positive Turns Evicted Animal Sanctuary into Taiwan's Model
Cesar Millan with The PACK Sanctuary staff. Photo Credit: The PACK Sanctuary Facebook page

What you need to know

It has been a stressful, but magical, rollercoaster ride for The PACK Sanctuary in Sanzhi, New Taipei City. The sanctuary still needs to raise NT$2.75 million to move its 113 dogs before July 31.

An animal sanctuary in Sanzhi, New Taipei City, only has a month left to move the remaining 113 dogs it currently houses to its new site. Any dogs that remain after the July 31 deadline will be taken to a government "kill pound."

The PACK Sanctuary has been rescuing animals in Taiwan since 2010. Now, the original shelter is facing eviction because the landlord wishes to sell the property.

Although the New Taipei City Government is giving PACK permission to build sanctuary gardens at its new site, the organization faces a shortage of funds; it needs to raise about NT$2.75 million (US$85,000) for construction at the new location, Dog Kingdom, also in Sanzhi.

Seán McCormack, co-founder and executive director of PACK, told The News Lens International that the whole process has been a “very stressful, but magical ride.”

Moving twice in 18 months

McCormack says this is not the first time the sanctuary has had to move, and that it didn’t start as an eviction.

The lease had run out on the organization’s original sanctuary in Sanzhi 18 months ago, and it had to move because the landowner wanted to sell. PACK offered to buy it, but couldn’t afford the asking price.

So they had to find a new place.

“I’ve moved many times over the years, always with 10 or 15 dogs. It’s not very easy, but you could find somewhere,” McCormack told TNLI in an interview on June 29. “But now I had 150 dogs, and it was impossible.”

It took PACK a year to find a place, FuJi. That wasn’t ideal, but the organization had to compromise because its contract with the original location had already been extended multiple times.

For this move, PACK raised NT$2 million and built the kennels and fences for all the animals they had in their original sanctuary. After moving half of their dogs in, the neighbors started a complaint campaign and the organization couldn’t stand up to it.

After the complaints, PACK grew concerned about moving the rest of its dogs to their FuJi site, but meanwhile the landlord of the original sanctuary was pressuring it to move out within two months.

“We just did a big fundraiser, and everyone was going to think it was a scam if we held another one,” says McCormack.

So PACK used as much materiel as they could from the FuJi site to build sanctuaries on a piece of land the organization found that didn’t suit the dogs, but worked for the other animals (pigs, ducks, geese, raccoons and so on) the sanctuary held. They also found a building for a cat sanctuary.

“Being forced out has actually made us expand,” says McCormack. “But we still have the dogs.”

PACK had decided to give up finding a big piece of land for the dogs and start looking for a bunch of smaller, cheaper places instead. The next day, a suitable location popped up.

“It works quite a lot like that,” says McCormack. “You’re looking for something and you can’t find it. Once you stop, it just arrives.”

Change of luck; becoming Taiwan's model animal sanctuary

The organization is currently renting 2.5-acre piece of land for NT$200,000 a year, and that is now what PACK calls Dog Kingdom. After a few twists and turns in receiving donations, a generous donator told McCormack the New Taipei City mayor wanted to meet him.

After visiting the sanctuary, the mayor contacted the heads of animal protection and agriculture in the city government, both loved the work PACK is doing and said they wanted to make the sanctuary Taiwan’s model animal shelter.

McCormack says, “They want New Taipei City to be the animal capital of Taiwan, and why not?”

While the New Taipei City government is looking to turn Dog Kingdom into the model animal sanctuary in Taiwan, the authorities are also helping to change the zoning law, which is what makes it difficult for finding land to build shelters.

Staying positive and grateful

So it has been a roller-coaster ride for PACK.

Though the organization now has the support of the New Taipei City government, it still needs to raise NT$2.75 million before the end of July for fences, canopies, dog sanctuary doors, and other facilities for the dogs to be moved from their original site.

“It's very stressful, but we genuinely love our animals,” says McCormack. “I do have my moments. I’ll lose my temper sometimes. But generally we handle it pretty well and I think the positivity is really what has started to take over now.”

McCormack says he couldn’t have done all this without the help of PACK’s 12-person staff, volunteers, the media and generous donors. Celebrities like Jane Goodall and Cesar Millan have also been a great help in calling awareness to the issue. It has also helped to stay positive, even in times they seem to be losing all hope.

“We're still struggling. We’re still getting no sleep. But we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s getting closer and closer,” says McCormack.

“We want to be the best animal sanctuary in Asia. That’s our goal. Why do it if we aren’t aiming to be the best?”

You can donate to PACK here.

Facts:

1. According to statistics from the Animal Protection Information, the total number of stray dogs in Taiwan increased from 84,891 in 2009 to 128,473 in 2015.

2. Dog and cat owners in Taipei City will be fined NT$10,000 to NT$50,000 for not registering their pets starting July 1.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole


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