Calls to ban foreign students from owning pets after dog was dumped in street

By Dana McCauley at

International students dumping pets when they leave the country is apparently an increasing problem in Australia. Photo / 123RF
International students dumping pets when they leave the country is apparently an increasing problem in Australia. Photo / 123RF

Animal lovers are calling for a ban on pet ownership by international students, after a dog was callously dumped on the side of the road.

The adorable Labrador was found in Killara, on Sydney's upper north shore, and taken in by inner west vet Dr Sam Kovac.

"A guy who's just finished his degree and is moving back to China and just dumped his dog in the streets of Killara," Dr Kovac, who treated the dog for a tick infection, said in a Facebook video.

"Unfortunately in Sydney there are a lot of dogs who are adopted by international students who only spend a few years here and then go back to their countries and don't know what to do with their dogs."

Appealing to the Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic's followers in the hopes of finding the unnamed pup a forever home, Dr Kovac described him as "a really lovely Lab", adding that he was "nowhere near as big as he looks in the video".

After the video was viewed more than 10,000 times, a new home was quickly found for the cute pooch, believed to be about four-years-old.

But Dr Kovac said the happy ending belied a bigger problem, saying the situation was "not extraordinary" and that "in fact it does happen regularly".

He called for pet ownership and adoption to be restricted to permanent residents, arguing that "a companion animal friend is forever commitment and the relationship should be permanent, not just allow them to be treated as a toy."


Jennifer Hart from the Pet Medical Crisis Fund, a Melbourne charity that helps pet owners pay for surgery they can't afford, agreed.

She said foreign students were known to pass around pets like pieces of sharehouse furniture when they left the country, with many eventually being put down.

"It's an unstable life for a pet that ends up in their hands," Ms Hart said. "They can have a very short and unfortunate life."

In January, the dumping of a group of dogs on a busy roadside in Sydney's inner west sparked an outpouring of shock and sadness. It is not known who was responsible.

The same month, Chinese student Xudong Zhang was banned from owning animals for five years under animal welfare laws, after a video emerged of him violently hitting and kicking his pet dog on the balcony of a Wollongong unit.

But even those who love and care for their pets can face unexpected challenges in providing appropriate care.

Three years ago, the Pet Medical Crisis Fund helped Chinese engineering student Roye Li pay for a $4000 veterinary procedure for her chihuahua cross toy poodle, Hei.

The Monash University student, who has remained in Melbourne after getting married and is now completing her PhD, was "struggling to get by on a scholarship" when her pet was injured.

The labrador has since found what will hopefully be a forever home.
The labrador has since found what will hopefully be a forever home.

After coming home to her flat to find Hei favouring his rear left leg, Ms Li rushed the dog to the vet and was told the bone was fractured, meaning amputation or euthanasia were the only non-surgical options. The Pet Medical Crisis Fund chipped in $1000 for the procedure.

Ms Hart told that while Ms Li had kept the dog, her case illustrated the danger of allowing international students to own pets.

"She ended up getting married and having a baby and needing our help again, but we didn't help her the second time around," she said.

"There's so much involved and these people come out, they might get sponsored by their parents but they're often just sponsored on a shoestring and they don't seem to call home to get help to save the day if that's required."

She said lonely students who wanted animal companionship could take in pets through foster programs.

"The poor vets, they're the ones who are left with these gorgeous little creatures, and having to kill them. It's just horrendous," Ms Hart said.


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