Millions of the world's dogs and cats live alone on the streets without the comfort and care of a loving home. Many pets are abandoned and left to fend for themselves, not to mention the uncontrolled breeding, which only increases the stray population.
However, one Buddhist monk, Zhi Xiang, who lives in Shanghai, China, has taken it upon himself to try and save the strays roaming the streets of China. The fifty-one-year-old has had a heart for rescuing animals since 1994.
Since then, Xiang has rescued almost 8,000 dogs and several hundred cats and birds. He has taken them under his care at his rescue shelter in Shanghai. He also homes them at the ancient Bao'en Temple monastery, where he is the head monk.
However, it cost around $2 million a year to feed and take care of all the dogs, cats and birds, which is only funded by donations. Xiang says, "I have to rescue them because if I don't, they will die for sure."
The devoted monk's work started three decades ago when he began treating a stray cat that had been hit by a vehicle. Even back then, there were many feral animals roaming the streets.
However, it wasn't until the pet market went booming when the stray population sky-rocketed. Xiang explains, "This is not caused by people who dislike dogs, or by the government, but by so-called dog lovers who don't have proper animal-caring knowledge."
Now the devoted monk wakes up at 4am to feed and care for all the animals. Even though Xiang mostly cares for dogs, he also looks after other strays, such as cats, chickens, geese and even peacocks.
Many of these pets eventually find new homes. Thanks to English-speaking volunteers, around 300 dogs have been rehomed in the U.S., Canada, and various European countries.
"I think they're very happy, so I feel it's worthwhile. But of course, I miss them."
Xiang forms unique bonds with each of the animals he cares for. But still finds it difficult to say goodbye when an animal leaves his care for a new forever home.
"I have a dream that one day when I have some free time, I want to go abroad and visit them, take photos with every dog that I rescued. So when I get old and can't walk, I have these photos to look at."