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Our Furry Friends in Beijing
by Valerie Sartor
2008-07-02 09:32:36
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If you come to Beijing most tourists and ex-pats will take one long upward look at the towering buildings, scurry out of the way of European Audis and ogle all those stylish women clip clopping along on designer heels. Foreigners think: “Gee, this is no Third World country at all.”

In many ways that’s true. And, in fact, Beijing houses more millionaires than any other major metropolis, although the USA as a country is home to the greatest population of rich people in the world. But in terms of communicable diseases and the way the masses of people and animals live China is still an “emerging country” as Mary Peng, former advertising executive at Dentsu, Young & Rubicam, flatly stated.

Mary Peng is a woman on a mission: simply put she wants to provide the highest quality veterinary care for people and their pets in Beijing. Along with her partner Frank Fan she has created a state of the art 5000 square foot veterinary hospital with 15 staff members in the Chao Yang District. It looks better than many Chinese hospitals and clinics I’ve experienced as a human seeking medical help. She has a special central air circulating system, quarantine rooms, piped oxygen, a new, large x-ray machine and in her operating and examination rooms everything is stainless steel, sparkling and sterile. “We wanted to create a place in China that was comfortable, where you and your pet would be treated with kindness and respect,” she said. “We have two separate areas for examining dogs and cats, even the color schemes are different.” Not only does she have a full service international standard vet hospital with western trained veterinary doctors (DVMs) and local Chinese vets but also she offers dog grooming, pet boarding, and a pet store stocked with safe foods and excellent accessories for animals. Moreover, her hospital has an official government license to dispense the rabies vaccine. Ms. Peng also sponsors on-going academic learning exchanges between veterinarians from Western countries and Chinese veterinarians.

Mary Peng feels like the sadly lacking sunshine for smoggy Beijing: she’s a radiant ball of energy when it comes to talking about her life’s work. Small, attractive and extremely articulate, she exudes enthusiasm toward pets, their owners and her hospital. “When I first moved to China in 1991 I saw that pets were not really popular. In fact, it was in the early 90’s in Beijing when I saw my first handful of Pekinese dogs. Prior to 1992 dogs were not allowed in Beijing. But at that time to register dogs was very expensive, about 5000RMB and then 2000RMB on an annual basis. The city had strict rules concerning where you could walk your dog and when you could walk a dog - the times that dogs were allowed to be walked outdoors in Beijing in the early-1990s was limited to before 7:00 AM and after 7:00 PM.” Ms. Peng said.

In fact, under Chairman Mao’s leadership pets were actually discouraged because they were perceived as western influences, a symbol of decadence and bourgeois lifestyle. In the early PRC and during the Cultural Revolution food for people was scarce and food was too dear for the majority of the population to accommodate pets. People mostly raised agricultural animals that served a purpose: they served to provide labor and food for the masses.

“When I took my cat to an agricultural university in the early 90’s to get her treated I was stunned, “Mary Peng recalled. “Everything was geared toward herd animals and everything was done herd style: animals grouped together all getting the same inoculation at the same designated time: there was no personal care, no acknowledgement of the individual animal. That’s when I realized there was a great need in China for the very best in veterinary services and holistic healthcare for pets.”

Raised in NYC, Ms. Peng was used to having her local vet give her animals' individual attention. “And vets back home educated me: they told me the hows and whys of taking care of my animals. They asked pertinent and personal questions, gave me detailed tips and had follow up visits. In China veterinary medicine is geared toward agricultural production - preventing disease and promoting longevity –it does not focus much on small companion animals, they’re an afterthought.” She went on to explain that until recently many animals were either owned collectively or treated as communal property so this western veterinary concept for smaller animals is relatively new. With China’s economic boom the benefits are coming not just to people but also to small companion animals as well. “You’ve seen people taking turns feeding wild cats in their neighborhood, they’re kind to the animals but no one really takes ownership so the animals do not receive the best care,” she said, explaining that more and more Chinese are now taking on pets as friends and companions privately.

In China, feral animals, especially cats, may carry rabies. Every year several hundred people die as a result of rabies in China; the China Daily reported in October 2006 that rabies killed more people than any other infectious disease for the fifth consecutive month. The newspaper said: “In September there were 318 deaths caused by rabies while 393 people were reported bitten by rabid animals.”

Because of these statistics Ms. Peng is bent on informing the public about transmittable diseases and how animals play a role in this. “A great deal of my work is education,” Ms. Peng said, “I think many foreigners come here and just assume that the situation is the same as their home countries. But unlike Australia, Europe, Canada and the USA – where the rare cases of rabies comes from wild animals who bite dogs and transmit the disease, here in China rabies is still a problem. China, like other parts of the emerging world: Africa, India, Indonesia – has many kinds of transmittable diseases that are eradicated or extremely rare in the developed world.”

Significantly, Ms. Peng has turned this problem into an asset: “Vets from developed countries come here as part of an exchange program so that they can see first hand cases of diseases like rabies. We are giving them the opportunity for real experiences, and they in turn help our students with other aspects of veterinary medicine. Our exchanges last from 3 months to three years.”

Her hospital also has many posters and free information concerning rabies, importing pets into China, registering animals, and animal health. “The Chinese government rewards any pet owners who register their dogs: they get a free rabies vaccine at designated, licensed clinics and hospitals. We also provide through examinations, neuter/spay services, dental services, and we have an in house lab as well as a large x-ray machine. We can examine an animal, do his blood work or culture or check an x-ray immediately. This saves the owner from running around to many places and saves the animal from any additional suffering,” Ms. Peng said.

She pointed out that it’s very important to take your pets to places where the vaccines are valid and the services are professional. “Vaccines are classified as controlled drugs. Clinics and hospitals must be clearly designated (定点单位) to dispense these substances. The general public should not just assume that it is possible to walk in and receive an injection that is safe, not out of date and correct, whether it be for animals or humans. Unfortunately, anywhere in the world unethical people and practices exist.”

Mary Peng can be trusted and her bi-lingual staff respect and adore her along with the clients and their pets. She knows her everyone who walks through the door by name. And although the services at her hospital are not cheap by Chinese standards, it’s evident that Ms. Peng is not in this business to make a fast buck. Clearly, she loves animals and wants them all to be healthy, safe and comfortable. Her hospital supports a variety of charitable causes: the Animal Disaster Relief Fund for Victims of the Sichuan Earthquake, adoption services for kittens born in the Community Cats: Trap/Neuter/Return Program, free vaccinations for registered dogs and her lobby supplies a plethora of free information to help pet owners to keep their beloved animals happy and healthy.

Visit their website at www.ICVSASIA.com

    
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LL2008-07-05 07:24:52
its a good sign


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