Stray Tibetan dogs gather at a shelter in Qinghai Province. (File photo/thepaper.cn)
(ECNS) -- As the once-booming market for Tibetan mastiffs declines, hundreds of these fierce dogs are struggling for survival in shelters that face great difficulties, Shanghai-based The Paper reported.
The once-prized mastiffs could have been sold for millions of yuan when they were trendy pets for wealthy Chinese. The boom gave rise to breeding the Tibetan dogs for a time, but many breeders have abandoned them due to waning interest, leaving them to roam around temples or villages.
The large number of stray Tibetan dogs pose a threat to people and livestock. Last November, an 8-year-old girl died after she was mauled by a stray dog in Nangchen County, Northwest China's Qinghai Province.
Elementary students in the county's Maozhuang Township dare not go outside alone for fear of being attacked. In this small town of 9,000 people, the elderly often carry a stick for safety when walking outside. A Tibetan student said over 500 stray dogs lived near Sumang Temple when he studied there. He once had to take shelter in a farmer's home after he was chased by three dogs.
Dongta, the township chief, said the local government and Zurmang Temple raised 200,000 yuan ($30,500) to build a dog shelter in 2015, which received about 1,200 stray dogs in two weeks. It still has over 600.
Dongta said the he faces heavy stress in keeping the dog shelter running. He also called for donations of dog food.
Kanbu Bajia from the temple said although nearby temples, schools and government dining rooms all donate leftover food to the shelter, the temple still needs to spend about 20,000 yuan a month to feed the dogs. Adding to the cost was the monthly payment of 3,000 yuan each to two formal employees, but in two years six people quit the job due to stress. To reduce operating costs, the monthly payment for helpers has been reduced to 2,500 yuan.
Authorities had planned to slaughter the stray dogs, but had to give up because local Tibetans believe killing them is against their religion.
Wei Jianbin, director of Yushu's Disease Control and Prevention Center, said dogs infected with the hydatid disease pollute the water and pastures and then endanger people.
Yang Qichang, an animal husbandry official in Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, said stray dogs also contribute to the rise of echinococcus among local people.
Data shows Nangchen has over 8,200 stray dogs. An environmental protection NGO in Qinghai estimated Golog Prefecture has over 50,000 dogs, including 14,000 strays. In Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, a shelter built in 2013 has a capacity of 2,000 dogs but now houses over 7,000, so a new center for up to 4,000 dogs has been built.