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She sold 2 village homes, jewellery, to run Hong Kong Homeless Dog Shelter, even as donations dried up amid Covid-19 pandemic

HONG KONG — Ms Angela Chan Ka-yee, 60, still recalls the day she found a black and brown puppy curled up inside a tree hole in Ta Kwu Ling in the New Territories.

She sold 2 village homes, jewellery, to run Hong Kong Homeless Dog Shelter, even as donations dried up amid Covid-19 pandemic

Hong Kong Homeless Dog Shelter founder Angela Chan at the shelter in Fanling.

HONG KONG — Ms Angela Chan Ka-yee, 60, still recalls the day she found a black and brown puppy curled up inside a tree hole in Ta Kwu Ling in the New Territories.

The poor animal was weak, with a deep wound on the left part of his head, covered in blood and maggots.

Ms Chan, founder of the Hong Kong Homeless Dog Shelter, remembers the rotting stench when she picked up the injured dog and took him to her animal shelter.

The puppy went through six surgeries over nine months to treat his wound, which Ms Chan suspects was caused by human abuse. He also had to be treated for heartworm disease.

The animal has since recovered, but lost his left eye.

Now five years old, he is being taken care of by Ms Chan and her volunteers at the shelter.

She named him "Fu Meng Chai", meaning pitiful boy in Cantonese, as a negative name can bring good fortune in Chinese tradition, she says.

"I feel bad for him. How come there are still so many poor lives in today's society, with such rich material resources?" she adds.

Fu Meng Chai is one of some 400 homeless or abandoned dogs, mostly mongrels, living at Ms Chan's 20,000 sq ft shelter in Lau Shui Heung in the New Territories. She established the charity in 2013.

Ms Chan, a former flight attendant of more than 20 years, moved with her daughter to the New Territories after she retired in 2000.

She says she found many stray dogs searching for food at rubbish collection points in the area from 5pm to 6pm every day, many stick-thin and suffering from injuries and skin diseases.

She recalls her heart breaking when she witnessed how tears welled up in the eyes of mother dogs when their newborns were whisked away by staff of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, which rounds up the city's stray animals.

To help those homeless dogs and provide a safe place for them, Ms Chan sold her two village houses and used the money to rent a place to shelter the animals, as well as pay for their food, medical care and desexing services.

She also sold her gold jewellery and borrowed from banks to operate the shelter after her savings dried up.

At first, it was only Ms Chan and her daughter, a 29-year-old lawyer, who took care of the rescued dogs, with about 180 of them at the shelter at one time, she says. To better attend them, she and her daughter moved to live at the shelter.

Ms Chan, who is divorced, says her other family members did not support her or offer help.

"I was exhausted, but these dogs are living creatures with feelings. I have no regret," she says.

Things have gradually improved. Now the shelter has two full-time staff members and three to four volunteers helping feed and walk the dogs.

Some animal lovers used to donate HK$200 (S$34) a month to support the dogs, but some have stopped because of financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic since last year.

Ms Chan named each dog at the shelter, and interacts with them lovingly daily.

Most of the canines live in an open space except for a few which are sick or require a special diet. She says many of the animals, which were afraid of humans at first, have grown gentle and friendly.

About 20 dogs sleep on her bed at night. She also gives each dog a funeral when they die.

"Dogs see humans as family. I see my shelter as a home for them," she says.

However, Ms Chan says there are still many stray dogs living without proper care across the city, many abandoned when their owners move house, or when couples break up. She appeals to owners to keep their dogs and take good care of them.

"Puppies are cute when they are young, but they, like humans, will also grow old and sick," she says. "Once you bring a dog home, it should be a lifelong commitment." SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

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Dog animal animal rescue animal abuse

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