Nov 2018. Republished and updated Sept 2022
Back home in England, Kirsten Mitchell grew up watching her mother always carrying a shopping basket with dog and cat food, making sure no strays she came upon, ever went hungry. When Kirsten moved to Hong Kong the sorry plight of cats and dogs in the poorly managed and unhygienic ‘prison-like’ animal shelters in the city, made her set out on a mission to ensure, that every abandoned cat and dog in the city, found a loving and comfortable home.
Kirsten was a school teacher but her busy schedule did not prevent her from starting-off this initiative 18 years ago, to ensure the welfare of abandoned animals. Finally, in 2008, Kirsten’s Zoo Limited became a non-profit, volunteer run animal rescue organization （Charity reg. no 91/12599） that provides safe shelter and medical care to abandoned, surrendered, neglected and often abused animals. The animals are taken in, spayed/neutered and provided with all the necessary medical care. They are then placed in foster homes until they are adopted. As Kirsten says,” if one truly has their heart in something, they always find a way to make things happen.”
She has funded most of her endeavours out of her own pocket and with the kind assistance of friends and likeminded people. Kirsten shares many a story of the large-heartedness of animal lovers, like the couple that fostered many cats during their stay in Hong Kong or the lady who in finding a retirement home for her cat became a dedicated volunteer. Often, families end up adopting the animal they are fostering.
And how has your Charity Kirsten's Zoo and Kirsten herself navigated through the pandamic we ask, both financially, workload-wise.
“I literally take it one day at a time - nothing else I can do! I have continued to work from home and yes, a definite increase in workload for me as there have been times when I wouldn't ask someone to do something. Example collect / trap an animal.
It has been more difficult to arrange potential adoptions. Some people have been uncomfortable with home visits which has been challenging but where there's a will there's a way.
We've had to ask for donations for almost every adopted animal whose costs were often way above the adoption fee. Also, animals requiring surgery and often long-term recovery we had to ask for financial help.
No real fundraisers or events which pushed us to find new and more creative ways to bring in much needed funds”.
We understand that a lot of animal charities had to deal with abandoned dogs due to the exodus of expats from the city. How did you and your volunteers deal with this, we wonder aloud.
We've all experienced an increase in surrenders / abandoned pets often on a daily basis and not only expats lets be clear. We took in as many as possible. Our own pets and those adopted from charities we work closely with were given priority. Followed by the genuine cases, or what I believed to be.
We further helped find long term fosters or boarding for those waiting to go overseas. We re-homed and continue to home whatever we can. Sadly, this is on going and I haven't seen a light at the end of the tunnel. I remain cautiously optimistic
Our volunteers have been incredible and helped in every which way they could. Often taking in another pet or or doing extra shifts at our cat sanctuaries. Our remaining core fosters included!
Our popular adoption days have also been more than a little sporadic with Covid. We started last month after almost exactly 1 year and the previous year we did probably 2 events. I am not confident about the regulations changing so we have to do what we can with what we have!
From volunteering regularly to help with the animals to sponsoring the medical and dietary needs of the animals, to providing a foster home for the animals, to donating money; the Localhood community can be involved in more than one way in providing support to them. Please visit the Kirsten’s zoo website for more details on ways in which you and your family can be involved with this wonderful initiative.