The 68-year-old Wen Junhong has more than 1300 dogs at her house. Twenty years ago, she saved an abandoned dog from the streets of Chongqing in southwestern China. After that, she kept rescuing them.
But she has a hard time to re-home the animals, which means the animals stay in cages in her house. She knows that’s not the ideal situation, but she tries as hard as possible to help the animals.
The animals keep coming to her, but few leave for adoptions. She’s driven by worries about what strays face on the streets in China, from accidents to being snatched up for the dog meat trade.
A handful of dogs run free around the building, but most of the animals are in cages. Every room in the two-story house is full of cages, piled next to and on top of each other.
Large dogs are kept outside, and small ones in cages indoors. “If all the dogs are released, they will fight,” Wen said.
“It’s important to look after these dogs,” she said. “Each of us should respect life, and the Earth is not only for humans but for all animals.”
Abandoned pets and strays are left regularly left in her front yard, and she receives calls every day to help more dogs. But Junhong needs help to find the animals a new home.
Junhong doesn’t only help dogs, she also lives with one hundred cats, four horses and a scattering of rabbits and birds. “Some people say I’m a psychopath,” she admits.
Her day starts at 4 am with clearing 20-30 barrels of overnight dog waste and cooking more than 500 kg (1,100 pounds) of rice, meat and vegetables for the animals.
Junhong finances the operation with proceeds from selling her apartment, loans of up to 60,000 yuan ($9,100) and her pension and life savings from an earlier career as an environmental technician.
She also receives donations after gaining attention on social media. Junhong hopes the attention will lead to adoptions of her dogs.
She also suffered online abuse after pictures of the animals’ living conditions were posted. “Living in such a small cage is no better than being a stray dog,” wrote one critic on social media.
Another one said: “What kind of “animal rescuer” are you when you keep an animal in a cage?”
But people also quickly slam these negative comments, saying that Junhong is trying her best but needs help: “One person cannot save everyone. It’s really admirable how this lady is saving all these strays, but she really can’t do this at the expense of herself. If she is gone, then who will take care of them?”
Another reacted: “Anyone with the heart to open up their house to 1300+ strays is commendable.”
Need help re-homing
Urban strays are rarely sterilized in China, making the problem bigger and placing more pressure on overwhelmed and underfunded animal rescue centers.
Junhong has six people helping her, who sleep in a room piled high with bags of dog food. One, Yang Yiqun, shows arms and hands covered in scars and scratches. “I like the dogs even if they bite me,” she says.
She has been working with Junhong for five years. “She is under too much pressure to handle it alone.”
Even with her love of animals and a team to help her, Wen admits re-homing strays is a struggle. “It’s really very hard,” she says. “There are more and more dogs and each of them gets less space.”