Saving Lily

We’ve shared several remarkable rescue stories over the years — from Baltimore to Kuwait — but none as harrowing as Lily’s, whose life was spared at an open-air market in China.  Lily’s gripping rescue is in a category all its own and one that thankfully has a happy ending.

Lily’s rescuer, Chris Green, is a well-known lawyer in the animal world.  We met over a decade ago at an ABA meeting and Chris has devoted his career to animal protection, first at ALDF and currently at Harvard Law School, where he directs the Animal Law & Policy Program.  In the fall of 2019, he traveled to China with Peter Li, a professor and a China policy specialist for Humane Society International (HSI), which campaigns across Asia to end the brutal dog and cat meat trades.

After presenting at a conference and several universities, Chris and Peter set their sights on visiting an animal shelter in Jilin Province in northeast China, where a local resident shared a rumor that dogs were being butchered at a market nearby.  Peter and Chris raced to the market, situated in an alley strewn with trash and lined with vendors selling chickens, sheep, and other animals.  A dog was already being butchered when Chris and Peter spotted Lily tethered to a chain link fence.  Recognizing her imminent fate, Peter sprang into action by engaging the vendors, as Chris resolved during their heated negotiations to save Lily at any price.  Ultimately, an $80 cash payment set her free.

As with so many dogs and cats that are victimized by this brutal trade, Lily was likely a stolen pet, given her temperament and demeanor. In a turn of events of fairytale proportion, Lily was bathed and groomed, and Chris walked her around the Imperial Palace before catching a flight to Portland.

It takes a village to save dogs and several organizations collaborated to bring Lily to the United States. The Vshine Animal Protection Association oversaw Lily’s medical care and rehabilitation and Jeff Beri, founder of No Dogs Left Behind, arranged for her transport with seven other dogs to New York one month later, where Chris and volunteers from a local rescue awaited their arrival at JFK Airport. 

After initially taking Lily to his apartment in Cambridge to finish the semester, Chris drove Lily to her ultimate home with his parents in Illinois.  There she enjoys a carefree life patrolling a large yard for squirrels all day with her brother Max.  Chris lives a few hours away in Champaign and sees Lily regularly.

Although only 20% of Chinese have ever tried dog meat, the number killed remains staggering and HSI believes that Chinese markets account for 10 million of the estimated 30 million dogs slaughtered across Asia each year. The tide is turning, according to Chris, as many young adults refuse to eat dog meat, having grown up with dogs and cats as surrogate siblings due to China’s one child policy.

In what has emerged as a silver lining to the COVID 19 pandemic, Chinese officials banned the trade and consumption of wild animals last February, and Shenzhen and Zhuhai banned the consumption of dogs and cats shortly thereafter. Moreover, China’s Ministry of Agriculture reclassified dogs as companion animals rather than livestock in April 2020.  While not an outright ban, dogs are no longer being commercially bred, raised, and transported under China’s Animal Husbandry Law. 

We share Lily’s story not to distress, but to raise awareness of a widespread and brutal custom that is declining before our eyes. We are bearing witness to a sea change in attitude, not only in China, but throughout Asia.  Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong already have enacted dog meat bans. HSI recently shuttered its 17th dog meat farm in South Korea, saving 170 dogs, which recovered at shelter partners in Canada and the U.S., including the Humane Society of Calvert County and Petey & Furends in Rockville, Maryland.  Admittedly, we cannot rescue our way out of this institutional abuse, but we must never stop advocating for those with no voice.  Lily is an ambassador who enables us to envision a more humane future for animals across the globe.