Massive cat rescue underway in eastern China

Volunteers are rushing to rescue hundreds of cats confiscated from a dealer and released into a mountainous area in eastern China, an animal welfare activist says.
Chinese veterinarians sterilize a homeless cat in Shanghai, China, in 2006. Volunteers and vets in Shanghai capture stray cats and dogs and sterilize them before offering them to pet shops or anyone else willing to house them. In nearby Wuxi City this week, volunteers were trying to rescue hundreds of cats that had been confiscated and released into the wilds near Shanghai. (AP Photo)

Volunteers are rushing to rescue hundreds of cats confiscated from a dealer and released into a mountainous area in eastern China, an animal welfare activist said Tuesday.

About 50 felines have been caught since Nov. 1, said Ni Zhijiang, the head of the Wuxi City Association for the Protection of Small Animals. Ni said volunteers were combing the area outside the city in Jiangsu province in the evening after work. 

Ni said association members travelled to a highway tollgate on Oct. 29 after receiving a report that a truck was transporting about 1,000 cats, which are eaten as a delicacy in some parts of southern China.  

After police determined the trucker lacked the proper permits, officials from the local agricultural commission decided to release the cats despite concerns by volunteers about the environmental impact and hopes of returning them to their owners.  

China's animal welfare movement is still in its nascent stage and relies on donations from the public to fund its efforts.

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