PREFACE: I get a lot of hits on this post and queries from people who want to get in touch with TUAPA. That’s great! I’m not currently located near the TUAPA shelters though, nor am I an official member of TUAPA operations. If you are interested in Taiwan dog adoptions in general, please check out this post. You will also fare better directing inquiries to the organizations; links are embedded throughout my articles.
Taichung Universal Animal Protection Association (TUAPA) is a rescue organization located in Taichung, central Taiwan. Established in 1994, they are a recognized non-profit, currently headed by eight staff members, one vet, and scores of volunteers. They have their own facilities to house approximately 1000 dogs and some cats.
That’s a lot of dogs and cats all together in one place. Aside from a few high profile organizations, I don’t think most rescues in the United States dare to assume responsibility for so many animals at once. And with a greater number of rescue organizations spread across the US, luckily most don’t have to.
Unfortunately in Taiwan, the number of rescue organizations relative to the number of stray, abandoned, and needy dogs is totally insufficient. So Taiwanese animal rescue organizations face certain challenges that are a bit different from what you would find in the United States.
Here are a couple videos that offer a sense of what TUAPA’s facilities are like. The text and some dialogue is in Chinese, but the main volunteer featured in these two clips is a Scottish expatriate who has dedicated much of her time to the care of these animals (she speaks in English in the video). Just letting the dogs out for a run takes quite a bit of work!
This one has English subtitles:
I first heard about TUAPA from a neighboring rescue organization, Taichung PAWS founded by an alliance of Taiwanese and expatriate volunteers. This group also works with the Taipei-based Animals Taiwan, with whom I got my first experience volunteering for a rescue. More on that some other time.
When the Doggy Daddy and I moved back to the United States and were looking at adopting a rescue Shiba before we got Bowpi, I learned that my local Shiba rescue often helps TUAPA rehome Shiba Inu from Taiwan. Because of our proximity to the Pacific region and because the popularity of certain breeds in Taiwan means that many inevitably end up in rescue on that side of the ocean as well, TUAPA has made connections with rescues here.
They can compete with all the other purebreds and mutts needing homes in Taiwan, or they can be brought to California (and elsewhere) for a better, almost certain chance at adoption.
One version of anti-rescue vitriol that I often see copied and posted to places like Craigslist charges that American rescue groups import dogs, specifically puppies, from places like Taiwan because rescues need a constant supply of cute, adoptable puppies to boost their image and keep funding their operations. The allegation is that this is a gross mismanagement of resources, and further proof that animal rescue operates on shady, irresponsible economic models.
Frankly, that’s a lot of misinformed, malicious crap.
It’s true that Taiwanese animal rescues frequently reach out to international animal welfare groups for assistance. This is partly an extension of the demographics of animal rescue in Taiwan; a lot of expatriates take part, and so they naturally get the word out to those in their home countries. And many international rescues, motivated by the gravity of the situation in Taiwan, willingly assist purebred and mixed breed dogs alike. The fact of the matter is that there are not enough suitable homes on this island of 23 million people for anywhere from 170,000 (official statistics) to 300,000 (best estimates) stray dogs.
One might respond that there’s a shortage of suitable homes for the vast number of homeless dogs and cats the world over, including, most likely, right in your own town. Sadly, this is true and will be true for longer than I can imagine. And so to that, I say YES, by all means, consider adopting locally first. Absolutely.
But if you hear of a needy dog who comes from elsewhere, like Taiwan, and if their story moves you enough to reach out and commit to adopting that particular dog from faraway — and the rescue is willing to help the dog find its way to you — there is no shame in long-distance dog adoption. When it comes to animal rescues and dogs in particular, it’s so often about the heart, about squishy things like emotions and empathy and compassion, and there’s no need to cheapen those very real motivations with talk of rationality, efficiency, or “judicious appropriation of resources” when that immediate impulse to do good is already beyond value.
One note on the economics of international dog adoption, concerning airfare. Like many other modern, international hubs, there is a lot of air traffic coming in and out of Taiwan. This is particularly true amongst the business, student, and expatriate populations who call the island home. These are the types of people that Taiwanese rescues rely on to help export their dogs, as it’s much easier and more cost efficient to send along a dog as extra cargo when there are already human passengers to sponsor the flight. It’s rare that single adoptive dogs are directly shipped as international cargo, as that would be a significant expenditure and a bigger burden on operation costs. But if several dogs can hitch a ride with someone who would already be taking the flight anyway, the extra baggage literally amounts to the weight of the crated dogs, as the rescue group will arrange everything before and after the flight, including the overage charges (some airlines even offer discounts for rescue groups), pick-up, and drop-off.
This was meant to be a short post. Woops. Anyway, there will be more.