You have probably heard similar news from many of the rescues around you because it has been an overwhelming time for animal welfare in Hong Kong. Despite a challenging three years during Covid-19, we have been able to roll with the punches thanks to our wonderful supporters – YOU! – and have been steadily able to provide care for up to 50 animals at a time.
Now we have over 75 animals in our care, which is far more than we can support financially or practically. In part, we have come to so many animals because it breaks our hearts to turn away animals in need. In part, we have so many animals because people do not respect the boundary we set when we say that we are full, and simply drop off cats and dogs at our doorstep without our agreement.
We have no shelter premises and are all unpaid volunteers who have other full-time commitments, so perhaps it is possible to imagine the panic and stress created, when we merely have nowhere to put the animal, we are dealing with our own paid work obligations and families, and are scrambling to find fosters day and night, repeatedly hearing back “I’d love to help, but no”. We have a significant lack of fosters now that travel has started again, and fewer suitable adopters than ever before. There is no other way to put it: we cannot find homes.
Most of the animals we take in come with multiple health issues, and together with a recent sharp increase in veterinary fees, we have ever-mounting medical bills we are trying to cover. When you have a budget that barely covers 50 animals, suddenly having 50% more animals to look after than you have allocated is an absolute nightmare.
We deal with people who want to rehome their animals and are furious with us that we are turning them down because it’s “our responsibility to take them” and otherwise it will be “our fault” that they will euthanize the animal. We deal with potential fosters or adopters who have specific preferences for perfect size, perfect breed, perfect temperament, perfect gender, perfect colour, perfect behaviour, perfect hygiene habits, and perfect health (now and in the future!) which we just cannot meet because perfect is just not how rescue works.
We turn down those who are out of the house for 12 hours on 6 days a week, refuse to give needed medication because they don’t believe in ‘big pharma’, see the animal only as entertainment for the kids or a good IG picture, or consider it acceptable discipline to hit or starve an animal. Then, we get questioned aggressively on how we dare to continually ask for urgent fosters when we are not giving out dogs and cats to all those who have applied.
We look for safe home environments for the animals so that they are not traumatized further while in our care and do not develop health, behavioural, or emotional problems that will make them unadoptable in the future. And sometimes with the best of our intentions and strictest vetting, it happens anyway, and we get back a cat or dog who was adopted when they were only months old, a year or two later, because they are now reactive, nip, pee in the house, or are overly anxious. I wish upon no one the guilt you can feel looking into an animal’s eyes, who you adopted to someone in good faith and trust as a tiny fur bundle, now back, confused, scared, and losing the only family they have known.
We deal with daily angry, abusive messages, including but not limited to that we have not responded fast enough to messages, that we are being ungrateful because we cannot drive an hour one-way to pick up a single donated dog lead, or that our HK$2,000 adoption fee is a rip-off. We are constantly putting out fires, looking after living animals who need our attention, medicating sick animals, supporting fosters, adopters and concerned community members, rescuing animals who are sick, injured or need desexing, speaking to veterinary clinics, arranging adoption events, raising funds, and running operations. We unambiguously do not have the human resources or time to be perfect. We welcome more hands on deck, rather than complaints and aggression when we are all already stretched to the absolute maximum.
TAILS is now full! We are unable to accept any more cats or dogs for foster and adoption until we have been able to rehome at least one-third of the animals we are currently responsible for.
It is a luxury to be able to say we are full. There are places in Hong Kong, including SPCA and AFCD, that often are obliged to take animals that are surrendered to them. When there is no space, these animals may need to be put to sleep. That is the hard reality of animal welfare. The people who scream in outrage the loudest often are also the ones that “would love to help, but really cannot”.
We need space, we need support, we need medical care, we need homes.
We have the luxury of saying that we are full and will not be taking animals until further notice, rather than putting animals to sleep. We have the luxury of focusing on the animals who are our responsibility and doing our best to give them everything they need to thrive. But we also know that just because we are not taking animals, the influx of animals in need across Hong Kong does not suddenly stop. By saying we are full, we are forcing other animal welfare bodies to make tough choices.
You can help TAILS and our animals, and all the animals and animal rescues in Hong Kong. Open your home to an animal in need as a foster or adopter. Many of our animals come in sick, dirty, and scared, and need all the love you can give them. We will guide you through the process. It can be hard, but it is rewarding work. Our animals will give you that love back many times over.
Come on board and volunteer your time and skills. We need more people who can take the initiative and put in the legwork in many different areas, including social media, marketing, events, foster and adoption coordination, transport, logistics and more.
Donate toward our medical bills or operational costs. It costs money to run a charity and rescue animals. Veterinary bills and animal care are our biggest expenses. Help us out with safe, dry storage for food and animal care products. Hook us up with some of your favourite animal brands for collaboration. Help us fundraise with an event or an activity that you enjoy and can put together for us. Take initiative and get your hands dirty.
Spread the word – share a post, tell your friends. See a cute puppy? Share it, tag us, promote us, and leave us a review. We can only reach more people if you make it possible.
It is unbelievably hard for us to turn away any animal in need, but right now, we are beyond our limits, and we are full. Thank you for your understanding and support. #keepthemwagging - Dr. Esslin Terrighena, Founder