According to reports by Chinese-language media outlets, Taiwan is set to ban state-run animal shelters from putting down animals next year.
The new measure, which is widely acknowledged to be a challenge given the amount of stray animals in the country, will save the lives of thousands of dogs and cats once it comes into effect in February 2017.
Estimates on the number of animals that will be saved by the new policy vary; however, it is believed somewhere between 100,000 to 200,000 dogs and cats will have their lives spared in the first year of implementation.
Currently, many public shelters for lost or abandoned animals have a policy that animals held for longer than 12 days without being claimed would be destroyed. This policy has seen thousands of animals, primarily dogs, euthanized over the years.
A number of city and county governments have raised concerns over the policy, with some administrators highlighting that they don’t have the capacity to house animals in their shelters.
For example, the Chinese-language newspaper United Daily News reported that in Chiayi County, almost 4,000 stray dogs are captured each year. However, the shelters in this county, which is not one of the largest in Taiwan in terms of population, can only house up to 150 animals.
Despite these concerns, the central government of Taiwan has announced that it will step in to help with any problems or issues that are caused as a result of the new ‘no-kill’ policy.
With the new law set to come into effect next year, Taiwan will become one of the few countries in the world that has an animal protection act that bans public-run animal shelters from destroynig animals that have not been claimed.
In the United States, for example, an estimated 2.4 million dogs and cats are put down each year by state-run animal shelters according to data from Humane Society. Despite efforts by animal rights groups in the US, this policy has proved difficult to overturn.
Animal rights activists have welcomed Taiwan’s decision to ban shelters from euthanizing unclaimed animals, and hope that the policy will be implemented by other nations soon.
“Taiwan should be held up as an example of the gold standard when it comes to treating animals and championing their rights,” said Rose Taylor, a spokesperson for a California-based animal protection group. “If they have been able to implement this policy, we need to start demanding our lawmakers follow suit immediately.”
Taiwan already has a reputation for having animal-loving politicians in high places. President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female leader, is famous for her love of pets, and she made headlines earlier this year by adopting three retired guide dogs. She is also a cat lover, and her two cats have their own Wikipedia page.