Famished and unattended mastiffs in search of care

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-12 07:30
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YUSHU, Qinghai - Jiangyuan Prince, a Tibetan mastiff, walks slowly, growls, reluctant to look at the flour paste in his bowl. When a stranger approaches, he barks angrily and wildly yanks on his chain.

Famished and unattended mastiffs in search of care

"He is the best in appearance of all the existing Tibetan mastiffs I know of. Yet he wasn't fed well after the quake and has become much thiner," said Tselho, the dog's breeder in Gyegu town of Yushu prefecture, as he gently touches the mastiff's hollow stomach.

As Yushu struggles to recover from the devastating earthquake that killed at least 2,200 people in April, Tibetan mastiffs, an ancient and expensive breed in China, are dying because of shortages of food and medicine.

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About 2,000, or one-tenth of the total number of Tibetan mastiffs in Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture, died in the 7.1-magnitude quake, according to the latest statistics from the Yushu Chapter of the Qinghai Provincial Tibetan Mastiff Association.

Chapter chief Tseom said the association will ration out dog food to breeders based on the number they have.

Since last Sunday, dog lovers donated 21.7 tons of food to animal aid organizations.

However, there is still a shortfall, which is likely to be as much as 200 tons over the next three months, said Tseom.

Known as the "home of the Tibetan mastiff", Yushu's mastiff-breeding industry was in good shape before the quake. Now, unattended mastiffs wander the streets.

As a breeder, Tselho feels sad that he has no decent food to give Jiangyuan Prince, one of his favorite dogs.

Before the quake, Jiangyuan Prince was fed meat and yogurt, along with processed dog food filled with nutrients. Now all he gets is flour paste and dough.

Dog food shortages are not the only problem mastiff breeders face in Yushu.

Medicine is extremely important for treating injuries and preventing disease, Tseom said, adding that those most urgently needed are for diarrhea and vaccines for rabies.

Many breeders fear the current shortages of food and medicine could lead to more mastiff deaths, resulting in further financial loss.

Tsering, a breeder who lost 17 dogs in the quake, regrets he did not sell his best dog, Jiangyuan King, prior to the earthquake.

"Someone offered me 1.8 million yuan ($265,000). Now he is dead, killed by the quake, along with 11 others after their shelter collapsed," he said with a sigh.

"Mastiff breeding is not as profitable as some believe. I used to have more than 30 mastiffs. The meat to feed them cost me nearly 1,000 yuan a day. I'd lose money if the puppies did not sell for a good price," he added.

Drarin Tashi, a 46-year-old mastiff breeder who had invested more than 200,000 yuan on 16 mastiffs, was also pessimistic.

"Five of them died in the quake and the rest have grown slimmer and slimmer," he said. "No one wants to buy mastiffs anymore. I don't know what to do."