Spotlight China: Guangzhou’s new Public Safety Bureau animal shelter, an educated design

The phrases “dog welfare” and “adoption” were repeated in speeches during the opening ceremony as well as on posters and signs throughout the buildingDog ownership in China has boomed in recent years. But more dogs don’t necessarily mean that owners are aware of how to responsibly care for them. As the third largest city in China, the city of Guangzhou has seen an increase in problems stemming from uninformed pet owners.

A lack of awareness and resources about responsible dog care has produced owners who often don’t sterilize, vaccinate, leash, or clean up after their pets. This creates unhealthy animals and unhappy neighbors—who are afraid of and irritated by the mess that these animals and their owners cause on a daily basis. Irresponsible pet ownership subsequently results in large number of homeless animals roaming the street.  

Around the world, shelters are often seen as the “solution” to these types of human health and nuisance problems. In China, municipal shelters are built and managed by the Public Security Bureau (PSB), the equivalent of a local police force present in each province and municipality in China. In building their shelter in Guangzhou, however, the local PSB decided to take a different approach.

Instead of building the shelter themselves, the PSB recruited the help of a local animal rescue group, to design and build the shelter, as well as taking advice from animal welfare groups such as the IFAW and SPCA in neighboring Hong Kong SAR of China. 

We were anxious to visit the new Guangzhou PSB shelter when it celebrated its opening on April 20th. IFAW knows that shelters alone don’t solve a community’s concerns with dogs and cats, but when done properly they can be a valuable resource for people and animals.

So, when we attended the opening ceremony, we were thrilled to see that many of our suggestions and educational materials had been incorporated into the building. There are boards detailed with colorful pictures illustrating adequate guardianship and the associated benefits. The shelter is bright, with many big windows, provides good ventilation, and has an overall positive atmosphere.

Structurally the building is divided into seven areas: an office area, admissions area, quarantine/observation area, housing area, adoption area, educational area, and behavioral training/activity area. Overall, the shelter itself is intended to hold 500 dogs, but it only currently houses 200, a pronounced and welcome change from most shelters we see in China, that are constantly overwhelmed with more animals then they can adequately care for.

When dogs are brought to the shelter, they are first entered into the computer database. Information that is gathered includes the date of admission, breed, appearance, health status, and medical history of the dog. Following this process, each dog is quarantined, a very important step. Isolating and monitoring dogs when they enter a facility is crucial in reducing the spread of disease from incoming dogs to current resident dogs. Following this observational period, healthy dogs are transferred to the shelter area while sick dogs are treated and medicated by one of 40 employees, which include both veterinarians and dog trainers.

All dogs are vaccinated and spayed or neutered. Dogs that have behavioral problems are given additional behavioral training. We were also happy to hear that each dog is given three hours of outdoor time each day, an important method of decreasing the stress that is inherent for any dog staying in a shelter.

Even promotions for dog adoption were resourceful—micro-blog advertisings and offers of three free years of dog licensing with adoption.

The Guangzhou PSB also seems to be taking shelter management seriously, which we know is vital to a successful shelter. The PSB has hired a local veterinary hospital which has provided pro-bono support to the local rescue group, to manage the shelter. 

While the Guanghzou shelter has made great strides, we know that no shelter is perfect. One important management component of any shelter is a willingness to keep monitoring and evaluating their activities and animal care, and a willingness to make improvements. Our offer of guidance will not stop now that the shelter has opened, and we continue to offer our expertise to the PSB in Guangzhou as well as those responsible for managing the shelter.

It is evident that both the Guangzhou PSB and shelter staff care about animals, are enthusiastic, and take pride in being the pioneers among all PSB shelter management departments.

Particularly encouraging is the PSB’s novel focus on animal welfare. The phrases “dog welfare” and “adoption” were repeated in speeches during the opening ceremony as well as on posters and signs throughout the building. The sign at the entrance of the shelter reads, “It’s a place caring about dog welfare.”

Although there is still much work to be done, the Guangzhou PSB and shelter staff are open-minded and have a great start to their endeavor.

We look forward to providing information, advice, and materials upon further request and to seeing how the Guangzhou shelter will grow in the future!


For more information about our efforts to help communities build support for animal welfare education, visit our campaign page.

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project