17 March 2021 Llanes
Today we should have been in Ufa, anticipating the third – and potentially decisive – game of the Women’s Hockey League final series against Agidel. Instead, while we wait for a new schedule for the season’s big showdown, we’ve been taking a look at some of our players’ interests away from the ice. For some, downtime is a chance to enjoy a hobby, but for others there’s a serious contribution to make outside the sporting arena.
There are many animal lovers on the Vanke Rays roster. When several of our players moved to China, they were moved in turn by the plight of the abandoned pets and strays they found in Shenzhen – and decided to try to help. Forward Rachel Llanes takes up the story.
“I adopted one dog in my first season and another last season for a friend,” she said. “There were a lot of strays dogs in the Shenzhen area, so a group of us decided to adopt some dogs off the street and give them homes in North America.”
And that was just the start. Season two brought more furry friends. “The second year, we found another set of puppies,” Rachel added. “Noora Raty took one home, and I took the other. Leah Lum also adopted one off the street. I think most of our team have dogs, so it’s pretty easy to convince all of us to save dogs off the street.”
And it’s not limited to China. This season’s relocation to Stupino, a town on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, could mean a relocation for another stray. “I’ve seen dogs abandoned here too and I’m considering saving another dog from Russia and finding it a home in North America,” Rachel said. “Sadly, the stray population is so overwhelming, but we do what we can to help.”
Some of the stats make sobering reading. According to some animal welfare groups, as many as 36,000 stray dogs a month are killed in China. On the positive side, the country’s rapid economic growth has prompted a boom in pet ownership – official figures from 2018 suggest there are more than 100 million registered pets and companion animals in the country. But this explosion of interest in animals has outpaced the provision of any support network to help owners who can no longer care for their pets. As a result, strays are commonplace.
Happily, the Lady Dragons are not alone in promoting the idea of adopting stray animals and giving them secure, loving homes. Organizations such as Animals Asia are at the forefront of promoting animal welfare across China and beyond. Working at all levels, from advising local government to providing grassroots initiatives in Chinese schools, the charity is helping to shift attitudes. And its campaigning work has brought success: last year, our home city of Shenzhen was among the first Chinese regions to remove dogs from the national catalog of livestock and ban the trade in dog meat; within months, the move was repeated nationwide.
Hopefully, as attitudes change, it will become even easier for Rachel and her team-mates to help improve the lives of Shenzhen’s strays – and keep growing that global community of four-legged Vanke Rays fans!