CHONGQING, CHINA (AFP) – Twenty years ago, Wen Junhong saved an abandoned dog from the streets of Chongqing in southwestern China. She now shares her home with more than 1,300 of them, and they keep on coming.
After taking in that first dog, a Pekinese she named Wenjing – “gentle and quiet” in Chinese – Wen found she couldn’t stop.
She says she was driven by worries about what strays face on the streets in China, from accidents to being snatched up for the dog meat trade.
“It’s important to look after these dogs,” she said. “Each of us should respect life, and the Earth is not only for humans but for all animals.”
Dog ownership was previously termed a bourgeois pastime and banned.
Views on pets have changed dramatically since, and ownership has boomed – but the country still does not have a national animal welfare law and there are tens of millions of stray dogs and cats, according to charity AnimalsAsia.
Urban strays are rarely sterilised, exacerbating the problem and placing more pressure on overwhelmed and underfunded animal rescue centres.
As well as the abandoned pets and strays that are regularly left in her front yard, Wen said she receives calls “every day to help more dogs”.
And it’s not just canines that the 68-year-old has a soft spot for.
She also lives with 100 cats, four horses and a scattering of rabbits and birds. “Some people say I’m a psychopath,” she admitted.
Her day starts at 4am with the unenviable task of clearing 20-30 barrels of overnight dog waste and cooking more than 500kg of rice, meat and vegetables for the animals.
The waste gets burned in the back yard, sending a continuous plume of smoke into the sky.
A handful of dogs run free around the building, while a tethered pit bull terrier at the back door growls and barks at strangers.
Every room in the two-storey house is full of cages, piled next to and on top of each other.