Q: What do I need to be a volunteer?

A: Our volunteers must be 21+ years of age. Once your volunteer trip is confirmed, you will need a valid Passport. You will also need to apply for a Chinese Visa at the Chinese Consulate nearest to your city. You can apply for a one time or multi-entry visa, depending on if you plan on returning to China in the future! Although not required, we recommend the following shots shots: Hep A, Hep B, Tetanus, Rabies. You'll also need a love for animals and a big heart!

Q: Am I able to just volunteer at the Safehouse in Harbin, or just act as a flight volunteer? And vice versa?

A: Yes! We need as much help as we can get, both at the Safehouse and for getting pups out of China.


Q: What does 'flight volunteer' mean?

A: An integral part of our mission is to get our rescues out of China and into new forever homes. Part of the volunteer experience is, if possible, flying back with our rescues to connect them with one of our designated rescue partners for rehoming. Although not required, we highly encourage our volunteers to participate in this aspect of our mission. We will work with you to arrange the return flight logistics so that your return flight allows the transport of our rescues and that they go to the appropriate destination. While we cover the costs of the animals' flight out of China, we welcome fundraising for this aspect of the experience, as flight transport fees are quite costly.

Q: How does the flight volunteer process work?

A: Do not fret, we handle all the paperwork and permits, and volunteers are not responsible for any animal transport costs. Our animals cannot be flown out internationally from Harbin, they must be flown out from Beijing. Our trusted local transport companies prep and transport the dogs from Harbin a few days before your flight out of Beijing. So before you check in with the airline, you will meet up with our Beijing transport company who will have all the dogs ready to be checked in. Once the dogs are all checked in and go to cargo, you are all set and then will not see them until you arrive at your destination airport and retrieve them from the baggage terminal area (usually a designated section for animal or oversized pickup). Finally, a representative from our Partner Rescue(s) will be there to pick up the animals from you and take them to their new lives!

Q: Am I responsible for my travel costs? How much will the trip cost?

A: Yes, you will be responsible for funding your trip. Costs depend on where you are flying from, where you stay, and length of stay. Volunteers are responsible for all of their travel expenses. You can anticipate spending anywhere in the range of $1,000-$2,500 for flights. Accommodation quotes you can find on the booking websites provided below. Food, please allow between $20-30 per day for all meals. Transport to and from the airport and the safehouse, we will arrange - if you would like to contribute towards this, it would be helpful, an airport round trip is approximately $50 and each day to the safehouse and back is around $20. 

***Please keep in mind that fundraising is a great option to help you raise funds for China! Once your trip is finalized we can guide you through any info you will need for fundraising. Please email: sharon@harbinshs.com to apply to fundraise using our logo and name and also for more fundraising ideas and guidelines.

Q: Where will we be staying while volunteering?

A: Our volunteers have stayed at a Westernized hotel called “Chianti 45° Holiday Inn” which is walking distance to a shopping mall (available to book through trip.com). There are also other higher range hotel options nearby Wanda Realm Hotel in HaXi, Harbin and Atour Hotel. We will organise transport each day from these locations to the Safehouse. You’re welcome to stay at any hotel, however, you will need to find your own transport to these hotels in time for pick-up in the morning. These locations have been chosen for their convenience and also because they avoid most of the infamous traffic in Harbin. Unfortunately, Harbin also doesn’t have coin operated laundromats, so please bring some spare hangers to hang your clothes up to dry after you have hand washed them.


Q: What would I pack for this trip?

A: Prepare to roll up your sleeves and get a bit dirty on this trip! We highly suggest bringing comfortable clothes that you don't mind getting (very) dirty. Caring for animals can get quite messy so we suggest leaving any fancy/formal clothing at home. Sneakers/athletic shoes and comfortable leggings / pants are suggested. Strongly recommended you wear long pants, as dogs will jump with excitement when they see you and their claws (especially puppies) are sharp! Please bring two pairs of shoes as you may visit areas that have diseases dangerous to dogs and the easiest way to spread it is on the soles of your shoes, so we ask that volunteers wash their shoes after they have been there, as shoes usually take a long time to dry and there are no driers in China - two pairs of shoes will help you stay comfortable. Please also remember, that Harbin has extreme seasons, Summer can be very hot and humid, while Winter is extremely cold and dry. For more information on the weather please visit this site: www.travelchinaguide.com/climate/harbin.htm


Q: How long do the volunteer trips last?

A: This really depends on your individual or group time constraints. Typically volunteer trips are approximately a week. However, depending on each situation it may be a shorter or longer itinerary.


Q: How long in advance do I need to tell you that I’m coming on the trip?

A: Ideally we ask for 1.5-3 months in advance for planning each trip to ensure a smooth game plan, including arranging for specific rescues to return with you for rehoming. 


Q: What will I do while I’m volunteering?

A: We expect our volunteers to be hands on at the Safehouse. Much of your time will be spent cleaning. All cages and kennels get cleaned out everyday. All poop gets cleaned out everyday. The day is spent moving between each room, putting the animals outside for their play time, while cleaning inside. All living areas need to be scrubbed out and disinfected. All bowls need to be cleaned out and replenished. After everything is clean, then we’re outside with the dogs socializing. Depending on time restraints, our volunteers also spend time visiting the different vets and clinics that we work with, checking in on our rescues and showing them there is a reason to get better. We want to set our pups & kitties up for success and teach them that kindness and love exists! 


Q: Will I be shutting down slaughterhouses? 

A: The team does not go to slaughterhouses, and we do not the attend YuLin festival. If for some reason you are wanting to witness a meat market or slaughterhouse, then maybe visit a different rescue. Our focus is on their recovery, not on their past. We do not agree with visiting meat markets or slaughterhouses. As far as rescuing dogs, Slaughterhouse survivors are given dogs to rescue almost on a daily basis, we ask that you refrain from rescuing or buying any animals in your time here, as your time is short and the team on the ground will be left with the responsibility, care and upkeep for that animal and their resources are already stretched.


Q: How do I know what airport to fly into in the US?

A: We work with you and our partner rescues well in advance to sort our which animals will fly with you to the city that the respective dogs need to get to, depending on where you’re located or willing to fly to on the way home. Before booking your ticket, please get in contact with the team through volunteer@harbinshs.com with the flight number, date and time of the flight you are looking at (also let them know if this date is flexible) and they will call the airline to confirm the flight can take dogs and that there is availability.

Currently we are looking for flight volunteers into the following airport locations:

• Seattle: with the following air carriers: Eva Air, Asiana Air, Korean Air, Air Canada

• San Francisco: with the following air carriers: Eva Air, Asiana Air, Korean Air, Air Canada

• Los Angeles: with the following air carriers: Aeroflot, Asiana Air, Korean Air, Air Canada

• New York (JFK): with the following air carriers: Aeroflot.

• Vancouver: with the following air carriers: Eva Air, Asiana Air, Korean Air, Air Canada

• Toronto: with the following air carriers: Eva Air, Asiana Air, Korean Air, Air Canada

Flights to the UK take more time and planning than to North America. The entry point for all dogs to the UK is via Paris and then they are picked up and driven across into the UK. We try to coordinate specific return dates and times for multiple flights, to make the trip worthwhile and cost effective. We cannot guarantee that all volunteers from Europe will also be flight volunteers.

At this stage, these are the only flight carriers we use. They are all animal friendly and allow multiple bookings of dogs on a flight with the flight volunteer. However none of them are direct. They all have stop-overs under 5hours, you will not need a visa for the country you stop over in as you will not be leaving the airport. All of the animals will be transferred safely to the next flight by the ground crew, you will not need to do anything except board your second flight.

***Please note: any changes that you make to your ticket AFTER the dogs have been booked on will CANCEL the booking for the dogs. If you are planning on changing any of the legs of your journey, please contact us BEFORE you make changes, so we can call and make sure the dogs are booked back onto the flight.

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Q: How, when and why did you begin?

A:  We officially started in July, 2016. Before that we were helping out a local shelter here and that’s how we got exposed to the industry. From working with the shelter, a few things became apparent - it was overcrowded, a lot of the dogs weren’t finding homes, a lot of dogs weren’t getting the treatment they needed and weren’t getting the basic necessities that they needed (initial quarantine, immunizations and sterilization). We felt like we could be doing more to help. So we started just focusing on a couple of dogs at a time. We mostly took the sickest and the most in need in the beginning. Now, we embrace the spirit of 'no dog left behind' and do our best to help as many as we can.

Q: How do you go about rescuing dogs from the dog meat industry?

A: We typically refrain from buying dogs from the industry (but obviously if we are confronted by dogs being sold for meat, we can’t turn and walk away from them, but as a basic principal we don’t buy dogs from markets). There are other ways to rescue our dogs (and cats):

The secondhand rescue: Many of the local shelters and activists buy dogs from markets to save them from slaughter. They often reach out to us and ask us to help them by taking on as many as we are able.

Meat Truck Stops: Any meat sold for consumption in China (like most other countries in the world) must come with certificates that verify that they’ve been raised in a sanitary condition for the purpose of meat. Due to the fact that China does not have farms for dogs, the dogs that are sold for the purpose of consumption do not have these health certificates and are therefore illegal. The dogs sold into the dog meat industry are stolen pets, strays and runaways.

In China, there are activists that act as a highway patrol - they have networks of people on highways that pursue dog meat trucks, often putting their own lives at risk and report them to the Agricultural Department and Police. This isn’t always successful though to secure the release of the dogs, as papers can be bought.

When it is successful, the dogs are usually placed under the responsibility of a local activist and then are all transferred to a secure location while they go through quarantine (this time is crucial to get as many volunteers on site as soon as possible. The dogs are often extremely sick, weak and dehydrated). After they pass through quarantine there are usually a large number of rescue groups all throughout China that will take responsibility for a number of the dogs to make sure they get healthy, rehabilitated and into new homes.

Q: How many dogs have you rescued so far?

A: At this stage (Spring/Summer 2019) we’ve rescued more than 2,000 dogs and cats. Oh! And a raccoon and a pigeon once as well…and a pig…and a goose, two foxes and some bunnies.

Q: Is dog meat illegal in China?

A: No. Selling, serving and consuming dog meat is legal in China. Any meat sold for consumption in China (like most other countries in the world) must come with certificates that verify that they’ve been raised in a sanitary condition for the purpose of meat. Due to the fact that China does not have farms for dogs, the dogs that are sold for the purpose of consumption do not have these health certificates and are therefore illegal. The dogs sold into the dog meat industry are stolen pets, strays and runaways.

Q: Where do “dog meat” dogs come from?

A: As there are no dog meat farms in China, all of the dogs sold into the industry are runaways, stolen pets and strays. Another big supply of these dogs comes from puppy mills, once the puppy is considered too old and ugly for sale (generally as young as 8 weeks old), then breeders will sell them off as meat to cut their losses.

Q: Who eats dog meat?

A:  Common misconceptions:

Misconception 1:
Dog meat is mostly eaten in rural areas. This is untrue, speaking with people abroad, they tend to generalize this and assume that it’s poorer communities that eat it. The starting price for dog meat in China is the same as beef, the most expensive meat on the market.

Misconception 2:
The majority of dog meat is consumed at YuLin. Also inaccurate. YuLin instead highlights what happens across the country, in every city, everyday.

Misconception 3:
Eating dog is just the same as eating other meat. Untrue. While we personally don’t condone eating any meat, the preparation of dog meat is particularly cruel. There are several different ways to prepare it and in some specialty restaurants the diner has the opportunity to chose their dog and preparation technique. We won’t go into the details, but there are many videos and articles available online that talk about this torture.

Misconception 4:
YuLin is a traditional Chinese Festival. No it’s not. It was introduced in 2009 to stimulate the local economy.


Q: So why do people eat dog meat?

A: For many it’s a social norm - they haven’t grown up with animals or with an awareness to protect animals or what it means for an animal to suffer. People also aren’t aware of the quality of meat they’re ingesting because they’re playing top dollar for a meat, they don’t expect it to be riddled with disease and raised in unhygienic ways. In North-East China, we have a lot of Korean minority groups here and they consume a lot of the dog meat. People also eat it for health benefits in Northeast China. We have brutally cold winters and they believe it raises the body temperature. Also in Chinese medicine, they believe dog meat strengthens your Qi (your body’s energy) making you stronger and it increase your sex drive.

Q: How do you go about re-homing the dogs?

A: Originally we were facilitating local adoptions, but currently we’ve decided that until China introduces animal protection laws, we will not be adopting any dogs into China anymore. So this means all of our dogs are sent abroad for adoption. To make this more sustainable, we’ve partnered with a few different rescues in the USA and Northern Ireland. We tend not to do private adoptions and if we do, we always make sure we work alongside a rescue located in that area. This is because we’re a long way away from their new homes. These dogs have been through a lot and do take time to adjust to their new lives. So to make sure new families are getting the support they need and to ensure that our dogs always get the best care, these rescues provide a huge support to us, our pups and their new families.