For years animal welfare NGO Animals Asia has worked through the organization’s Professor Paws and Doctor Dog programs to introduce canines as loving companion animals to those in Asia who might otherwise view them as a source of food. This June, Professor Paws made a special visit to Guangzhou, China—known to many as the dog-and-cat eating capital of the world.
Animals Asia Founder and CEO Dr. med.vet. h.c. Jill Robinson MBE launched Dr Dog in Asia in 1991. This innovative animal therapy program provides loving canine companionship for individuals in hospitals, disabled centers, homes for the young and elderly, and a variety of other therapeutic facilities. Over 300 “Canine Consultants,” registered as official Animals Asia therapy dogs now make regular visits to people who need the unconditional love of dogs the most in six Asian countries. These altruistic trips not only provide emotional support, but demonstrate for many that dogs are our friends, and not food.
Following in the hugely successful paw-steps of Dr Dog, Animals Asia introduced Professor Paws in 2004, a program bringing dogs into classrooms so that Chinese schoolchildren may see them as companions who are not to be feared or eaten. The lessons our Professor Paws teach are two-fold; they both aide in school teachings and educate about the loving relationship that may exist between humans and dogs.
When former Animals Asia Education Director Anneleise Smilie noticed a widespread fear of dogs amongst students during her presentations at local Hong Kong schools, she saw an opportunity to educate. Many children in Hong Kong, especially those living in public housing estates, have never had the chance to touch a dog, and often parents instruct them not to due to a common belief that dogs are dirty or carry diseases. Anneleise responded to this phenomenon by creating Professor Paws—a way to reach children in their schools, letting them know that dogs are to be loved and not feared. Professor Paws sees Animals Asia’s Canine Consultants visiting classrooms to support their education and give them hands-on experience with gentle and affectionate dogs who they might otherwise be afraid of.
The benefits of our Professor Paws program extend beyond saving the lives of dogs and bringing an experience of unconditional love to schoolchildren; research has shown that dogs can be instrumental in improving children’s learning skills in an effective and fun manner. Close interaction with dogs is also proven to increase self-confidence and pro-social behavior amongst students, while encouraging the development of compassion and widening their scope of experience. Children who have experienced our Professor Paws visits to their schools go on to be more motivated to learn, and look forward to school.
In June, a high-profile public event on “Responsible Dog Ownership” was held by the local authorities in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China, also known as the dog and cat-eating capital of the world. Organized by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau (PSB) in partnership with Animals Asia, the event was held at the Tianhe District Huajing Primary School.
As the department responsible for dog management and related public education, the Guangzhou PSB has organized many dog-related events, part of the growing animal welfare movement sweeping through China. This was the first such event held at a school and aimed specifically at children. Animals Asia provided four dogs from its Professor Paws program and delivered the course to the children.
The Guangzhou PSB knew of Animals Asia’s work and had recently attended two Professor Paws visits. They commented that the course was very positive for the students, with animated and lively discussion, practical information, and calm, friendly dogs.
One PSB officer commented that many adults would benefit from the practical tips given on subjects such as how to approach dogs, and how to responsibly care for them. He felt that promoting responsible dog care could reduce conflict between dog owners and non-dog owners, especially in Guangzhou where the number of dogs being kept by residents is increasing every year.
In 2011, Animals Asia’s Professor Paws dogs visited 2,750 schoolchildren in 23 schools in the three cities in China. These gentle volunteer dogs and their guardians were also in great demand at many of the 32 community activities organized by Animals Asia throughout the year to campaign to end cat and dog-eating, and promote being a responsible canine caretaker.
Animals Asia’s Professor Paws dogs demonstrate that just like human beings, through small steps and personal interaction, individual dogs have the power to create great positive change for all canines.