Auntie R’s Dog Sanctuary

Situated on the very outskirts of Tianjin, more in the country-side than city, Auntie R’s rescue centre couldn’t be harder to find if it tried. But maybe that’s the point. Our car pulls off the duel carriageway and ambles down a sandy track, nothing but tumble weed and farmland for as far as the eye can see. We eventually arrive at a barren, dusty outpost surrounded by derelict buildings and more countryside. The engine stops just as the barking starts.

Auntie R’s Shelter is named after its founder and is home to over 500 stray dogs and cats. They all live together under the same roof, eat the same food and endure the cold winters huddled together under donated blankets and sacking. It’s not the easiest of lives for these strays, but at least they have someone.

Auntie R says she was emotionally moved by the stray dogs and cats – many of them hurt or ill – that would come foraging for food. So moved that she started taking them home to look after and protect them, to protect those who had no-one else.

She initially hid her growing number of ‘pets’ from her friends and neighbours, mainly because she was afraid they would mock her, but not least because of the legal complications involved with operating a refuge for strays. But soon volunteers arrived, kind hearted men and women who couldn’t turn a blind eye. They affectionately say the animals are her children.

As we pick our way through the yards, stroking and playing with the dogs and cats, we sit with the volunteers and begin to realise that this is a sacred haven, a one-in-a-million opportunity for these animals to live out their lives in some kind of peace, off the streets and away from harm.

I make friends with an old dog in a wheelchair constructed from plastic piping and a toy pushchair. We share a much needed cuddling session for half an hour before I have to leave. This shelter is one of the few in Tianjin attempting to combat the rising problem of stray animals on the streets, fur babies born in the dust and left to fend for themselves. But little to no help from the municipal government means the futures of these life saving centres hang on a shoe-string, their only form of income wildly fluctuating as China tries to grapple with it’s economic slow-down.

I stay in contact with the admin at the sanctuary and pass on whatever help I can. If you would like to help by donating, please get in touch with me directly and I can advise.

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Photographer & Artist

All content copyright Barnaby Jaco Skinner 2018









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