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As she lies sick in hospital, 63-year-old Li Jun is more worried about who's looking after her dogs at home in Fengtai district of Beijing.
That's not surprising, until you learn that she is not talking about her pets. Li Jun lives with 180 stray dogs.
"I want to go back to my dogs immediately," said Li, who has taken in strays since 1997, three years after she retired from work.
A volunteer plays with a dog at a shelter for stray dogs run by Li Jun in Fengtai district, Beijing, on Saturday. [Wang Deyang / for China Daily]
"They need our attention urgently, because they might be sold to some restaurants and killed or maltreated," she said, adding that many of her dogs are disabled or sick.
Taking care of these poor animals uses up most of her time and savings.
"I never sleep for more than four hours a day, and it's the long hours I spend cleaning and feeding them that has delayed me getting treatment for my illness," she said.
Dog food alone costs 30,000 yuan ($4,754) each month, much more than her pension, and there are additional charges for the treatment of sick animals.
To meet the costs, she asked for help online and receives regular donations. Her two daughters also give her 2,000 yuan a month, and she collects a little rent on her small house.
"But all that money won't go far. A large amount is needed to build more shelters. I don't know how I can support it if I become seriously ill," she said. "But I won't give up."
Many volunteers have come to her aid in recent years, and especially so this month during her stay in hospital.
One volunteer, Yao Yuan, 26, goes once a fortnight to help.
"The dogs get a home here and food, and medicine when they need it, and are much safer than straying outside," he said. "You wouldn't believe it, but she actually lives with the dogs.
"Their situation is not that good though. The rooms are shabby."
Many of his friends have helped out, donating and collecting money. On Saturday morning, they raised 7,600 yuan in an hour near a subway station in Beijing.
"But individual efforts are very limited. We hope companies and organizations can help us and the stray animals," Yao said.
Animal welfare has been attracting greater attention recently. Several non-governmental organizations have been set up to protect stray dogs and cats, but some have already folded due to lack of funds.
"There are no laws regulating the practices of these animal welfare organizations. Sometimes, the stray animals can face more serious danger when kept by some NGOs and individuals," said Zhang Luping, founder of Beijing Human and Animal Environmental Education Center, where more than 700 homeless dogs and cats are cared for.
"They claim that they help the animals, but only feed them every three days or use the poor pets as an excuse to collect donations," she said.
"A law stipulating the principles of animal protection and welfare is desperately needed now."
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