Once we heard that Yi Jie adopted three dogs from China, we knew we had to interview her. Yi Jie is commonly known as the owner of Levupets, one of Singapore's online pet handmade accessory store. Before you proceed reading our interview with her, it is advised to keep an open mind while reading. We all have probably heard and watch certain things about how the Chinese people have been treating their pets, but this may not be true for all Chinese. In fact, there are groups of heroic individuals who do what they can to help these voiceless animals in China. While adopting animals from overseas is an option, this does not mean that we love our Singapore Specials
1. Tell us more about YOU and your dogs!
Hello! My name is Yi Jie, and I’m 20 this year. Yuyu is my first dog, and she is a red toy poodle. We do not know her exact age, but we can estimate it to be around 6-8 years old today. Yuyu lived around the facility for 6 months, living off scraps and leftover, before being rescued by her lovely rescuer 晓丽 (Xiaoli). My mum chanced across the adoption post by chance and decided to adopt Yuyu for me because I have been asking for a dog for a little while. Yumi is my second dog, and his past is a sob story. His rescuer was a friend of Xiaoli, and her name is 丽丽 (Lili). She found Yumi just walking around on the streets, and decided to take him back to her place. He has a crazy fear toward anything long and skinny, and he turns very defensive and scared towards children. That was how we deduced that he was probably abused by children, being beaten and burned by them. Just like Yuyu, we do not have an idea of how old he is. Finally, for my newest dog Yuzu, she was never abused or anything, but in contrast, was greatly loved by her previous owner. However, the lovely lady was forced to give up her dogs because she was pregnant, and her mother-in-law was in the hospital, and they desperately needed money.
2. What are your thoughts on China pet rescuers?
In China, there are no animal rights law or organisations, hence all efforts to help the animals are self-funded. The lovely ladies who gave me Yuyu and Yumi were individuals who dedicated all their time and money to help these dogs. I have worked and interacted with a few rescuers, and I am proud to call them my friend. Many people think that China doesn’t deserve to have pets and that it is a country filled with cruel and disgusting individuals who eat and abuse them. I am not saying that these people do not exist, they most certainly do, and it will be wrong for us to ignore their existence. But it is equally wrong to ignore the majority who are doing what they can to help every single year. When we classify all Chinese to be cruel, we are also silencing the protest and voices of those who are helping.
3. Would you like to comment on Yulin Festival?
Yulin Festival is a cruel marketing plot that should be banned, and that is what many in the world are doing. Every year, people raise awareness and try to pressure the government into enforcing laws to help the poor animals. But what most people do are sign a petition, and/or donate to an agency. I am not calling out any of these agencies today, because that is not my job, but what happens every year is that many of these big international agencies will go down to the event and take pictures and videos of the animals suffering, before sharing videos of the animals being rescued, and claiming all the credits for it. Once the event is over, they will pack up their bags and leave. Have you ever wondered what happens to these animals the moment the whole saga is over? They are certainly not being brought out of China into new homes. It is up to these individuals in China to bring the animals to the vet, to bring them to their homes, to find them a fosterer or new forever home. When I open my WeChat app and scroll through the posts around this time, what I get to see is the process these individuals have to undergo to rescue the dogs, and it is not through paying to buy the dogs, for that only furthers the problems. You watch videos of rescuers risking their lives, sneaking in to steal the dogs out. You watch videos of many of them working together to use their cars and block the truck drivers transporting the animals, and preventing them from reaching the venue, You watch them work 365 days a year. There is no one short festival of death for them, it is an entire year of work. (Once again, I am not calling out on any organisations, I respect all efforts to help the animals, but I find it important to show the other side of the story that few gets to see.)
4. Can anyone adopt from China? Share the adoption process with us!
Yes, anyone can adopt from China. I have created a Facebook page for this purpose but found myself not being able to update simply because of how busy the rescuers are. They are not able to send me pictures and details of every dog that comes in. What usually happens is that I give them a few guidelines, and they will then select a few dogs that suit the requirements and send me the details. Of course, along with the rescuers, we will vet and see if you are suitable for adopting the animal. There are no adoption fees, but they do occasionally ask if you are willing to help cover a small portion of the vet bills if it is very expensive. Attached is a detailed breakdown of the importing process (https://www.facebook.com/helpthemtoday/posts/792641680873673?hc_location=ufi
). It is neither a short nor a cheap process, so please do think through it carefully if you are able to adopt internationally. If you can’t afford to do so, please do visit any one of the animal shelters in Singapore
to find out more.
5. If we can't adopt, is there anything we can do to help these dogs?
By raising awareness, sharing, and giving your support to these individual rescuers will be good. You can also donate items/money to them if you wish to help sponsor the animals. When the dreaded Yulin Festival rolls around, they do have a large fundraiser to raise money to purchase medicine and other lifesaving items to help heal the wounded animals. If you wish to help, please do contact me via the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/helpthemtoday/
) to find out more.
6. How did you chance upon the opportunity to rescue and adopt dogs from China?
My mum has been working in Shanghai in the past few years, and she was the one who got introduced to this by her friends. So when the post for Yuyu came up, she just couldn’t resist and get me my first dog! It was only after finding out and speaking to the rescuers that really helped me to understand what they have to do and face every day.
7. Any downsides you have faced throughout the adoption journey?
With my own dogs, no I have not. It is definitely sad and heartbreaking to see what Yumi has gone through, and the state he was in when I met him, but the knowledge that he is now happier with me is enough to get over all the trouble and worries. However, I have most certainly met some people who did not agree with what I do, and believe that I should only adopt locally, and to advocate for adoption from China was a bad thing. Approximately 1 year ago, I came across this group who were advocating for local adoption of mutts, and they had greatly disagreed with what I do, it was a shocking and disheartening experience being called “the worst dog owner”, “part of the problem” and some other ugly words. However, there were many amazing friends who stood up for me and reminded me of my goal. My goal is to help dogs, regardless of where they come from, and it may not align with your goal, but as long as everyone is trying to do their part to help the dogs, I believe that that should be all that matters. Furthermore, when I see how happy the dogs I helped to rehome are, it just gives me the motivation I need to continue what I do. I have managed to send 3 to the USA and bring 2 other dogs into Singapore.
8. As cliche as it sounds, why adopt?
First of all, I need to say that I am not against purchasing dogs. Instead of supporting the “adoptdontshop" movement, I support responsible and ethical adoption and breeding. If you wish to purchase, I hope you find your dream dog. But please ensure that you are purchasing from a responsible and ethical breeder, and what that means is that they are able to show you health testing reports, is transparent about the pet’s heritage and is always there to help no matter how long you have purchased from them. If you wish to adopt, good on you and thank you for giving the animal a second chance at life. The problem doesn’t lie with the responsible breeders who take good care of their dogs, but the puppy mills and backyard breeders who give no regards to the genetics or health of the dogs they are breeding.
9. How is it like to own three dogs?
It is not as crazy as you think it is haha! From zero to one dog, that was a jump. From one to two, well a slight increase in difficulty. But from two to three? It’s nothing much! Especially when they are so small. Big dogs, on the other hand, that’s a whole new story.
10. We know you have an online store as well, tell us more about it!
Thank you for asking, I own the shop Levupets. Levu was a combination of two words - love and you because I love my pets! I depend on Levupets as my only source of income to sustain taking care of my pets. I know that I could certainly ask my parents for money to feed and take care of the three dogs, but I believe that since I wanted these dogs, I am responsible for them, and that includes being responsible financially. It is hard sometimes, but I do love what I do, and seeing the cute pictures other owners post really makes everything so much better. In fact, I am currently coming up with new designs to give owners more choices.
11. Any advice for anyone who intends to adopt a pet?
A pet is a lifetime commitment, you cannot decide one day that I am no longer interested in the pet and discard of them. They are a living creature, not a piece of clothing that you can throw away after you have lost interest. When I vet a potential individual for adoption, my first question to them is “Are you financially stable to own a pet?” My issue is never the age of the owner, but their mental, financial and physical capability. If they are mature enough to make the right decision, able to sustain the costs of keeping a pet, and is fit and can suit to the lifestyle needs of the pet, who am I to say no to them then? I had adopted my first dog when I was 18, and if I do say so myself, I think that I am doing a good job taking care of them. Before I had a dog, I spent 6 months doing research, learning from my friends, speaking to the rescuers, and helping out with the rescuers to learn how to take care of a dog. It is tedious, but it ensured that I was ready to have a dog.