“We do not have uninjured dogs or cats here, there are only sick, injured and old animals,” the members running the Hanoi Agriculture Animal Rescue Station say about their center.
The animals have one more thing in common: they were abandoned.
The center was founded by teachers and students from the Vietnam National University of Agriculture’s faculty of veterinary medicine five years ago, and it has saved thousands of cats and dogs since then.
Its motto is ‘We treat animals like family.’
Every morning the students visit the center, housed in a rented place for which they pay VND2 million ($86.29) a month out of their own pockets.
Students from the Vietnam National University of Agriculture and their rescue station. Photo by VnExpress/Huyen Vu.
Situated a kilometer from the university, it has an office and three rooms for animals in individual cages.
Nguyen Thi Loan, a sophomore, is one of the 25 members. After doing them for a while, she has now gotten used to checking the animals’ temperature and giving them shots. But one thing remains difficult: giving them medicines orally.
Loan says: “They are smart, never taking the bitter medicines. If we do not hold them tight, they will bite or scratch us.” As if to prove her point, Heo (Pig), a cross between a Pekingese and a Japanese Chin, bites her gloves leaving scratches on her hand.
Around 80 percent of the inmates are rescued dogs and cats, many of which panicked when they were rescued and overreacted. Many of the rescuers wear bloody wounds from those attacks.
The students treat most of the animals’ wounds and even perform surgeries though sometimes they do go to a nearby veterinary clinic when they have a complicated case.
Nguyen Thi Loan (L) and Hoang Van Khanh take care of a cat. Photo by VnExpress/Huyen Vu.
After their classes, they always visit the center to see the animals, or “babies” as they call them.
In the evening two or three are always around to keep an eye on animals that are severely injured.
“They throw an old dog away because it is not helpful anymore, but we want to save it,” Hoang Van Khanh, who is in his senior year and a deputy leader of the rescue team, says.
“Animals are like humans; they need protection and respect instead of being abandoned when they do not have any value.”
The team is often overwhelmed by the number of animals that need rescuing, and is sadly forced to refuse a request.
“We are not afraid to cure or adopt them, but we want people to understand that the station wants to take care of the animals in the best possible manner instead of bringing them and leaving them there,” Khanh explains.
When the animals get better, they post the information on their page to find them new owners.
Anyone wanting to adopt them will be interviewed and have to commit to reporting about the animals’ condition every month.
Khanh says: “We call and text the new owners every month to check on the animals. Some people agree, some say we are disturbing and stop keeping in touch after a while.”
Dogs and cats in individual cages at the rescue center. Photo by VnExpress/Huyen Vu.
Khanh, who joined the team as a sophomore, cannot remember how many dogs and cats they have saved in the last three years.
There have been some unforgettable memories during that time, he says. Like when they had more than 50 animals one time and when the house was flooded another time following heavy rains, and they had to put all the cages on top of beds and stay up all night to keep an eye on the rising water.
Khanh and his colleagues have faced a lot of opposition with some neighbors insulting them and even throwing rocks at the house.
Khanh explains: “Previously this was a quiet neighborhood with few households; so our rescue work was unimpeded. But with more and more people now living here, many of them have said we are crazy and tried to force us to move out.”
They are looking for a new place, a place where they can provide their animals with the best conditions without annoying neighbors.
To Khanh, Loan and the other members, happiness lies in their dogs wagging their tails or an injured cat getting cured and finding a kind new owner.