I am Maimai Ma, an overseas Chinese in Spain. Until November 2016, I had been a strong supporter, donor and defender of Yang Xiaoyun. My visit to her shelter in November 2016 led to the collapse of my confidence in her. The visit exposed the darkest secrets Yang had tried to hide from me and is still hiding from her donors in China and around the world.
How I Got to Know Yang
In 2006-2014, I lived in Tianjin for 8 years and one day in 2009 I read about Yang Xiaoyun. I was so touched by her story, a retired teacher who saved so many stray dogs. In July 2015, when I heard that Yang took in the dogs rescued on July 7, my admiration for her was greater.
Support for Yang
My admiration and support for Yang were such that I had since June 2015 become a fighter for Yang Xiaoyun in all the disputes where Yang was accused of charity fraud and neglect of her dogs. In all these disputes, I stood squarely with Yang believing that she could not be wrong and that she was a true hero. I was so devoted to her that I rejected any charges g directed at Yang. To me, Yang Xiaoyun is a “goddess of kindness.”
In about 18 months, day and night, I argued with countless people who accused Yang. I believed that those who questioned Yang had ulterior motives. Attacking Yang Xiaoyun, in my opinion, is attacking animal protection movement. It was helping the dog meat traders.
In September 2015, when an investigative report was released on Yang’s shelter and when a New York Times report confirmed the results of the investigation, The New York Times, I rejected the investigative report and the New York Times report as baseless.
The Very Reason of My Visit to Yang’s Shelter
When I was back to China in October 2016, I decided to visit Yang’s shelter and see the dogs I had helped and donated money for their care. I arrived in Tianjin on November 17; met Yang for lunch on the 18th and agreed to visit her shelter on the 19th. I was so looking forward to seeing the dogs.
Frankly, my visit to Yang’s shelter had two purposes:
- To show support to “Aunty Yang” at a time when she was under attack; and
- more importantly, to use my own visit to prove that the critics were wrong and that all the attacks on her were baseless.
The entire visit was full of shocks. When I arrived at the gate of Yang’s shelter, she met me with a cold face and said that she normally did not allow people to go in. I was profoundly confused. Anything wrong? Reluctantly, Yang agreed to my entering on condition that I did not take any photos. I agreed and put my cell phone inside my pockets.
I was more shocked the very moment I saw the dogs. Their poor conditions were beyond description: serious skin problems, eyes covered with eye mucus, scratching and rubbing against the walls or posts, and begging for food or for touching from me. Seeing the poor conditions of the dogs, I was crying behind my sunglasses, shedding tears of pain, regret and self-blame.
This was no shelter. It was run-down, terribly smelly, and absolutely filthy.
Big and small dogs, males and females all were mixed together. In one enclosure with small dogs, the floor was littered with garbage. Dogs were dirty , lifeless, sick, and hungry.
When I saw a few poodles huddled together, I offered to help adopt them out overseas. Yang Xiaoyun’s answer shocked me: “This is a prison for dogs. Nobody shall take them out of here.” “And, I do not want anybody to watch me,” she said coldly.
All of a sudden, this “Mama Yang” or “Aunty Yang” who I have supported and donated for years looked very strange and even ugly.
Number of Dogs in the Shelter
There were no more than 300 dogs. I did not see workers or hired helpers there. I was asking in my mind “even with 300 dogs, how can she alone handle it?”
When I was about to leave, Yang Xiaoyun offered to buy me some Tianjin style tea sets and local specialties. When I declined her gift offer, her attitude changed for the worse.
My Suggestions and Yang’s Flat Refusal
I talked to several supporters of Yang Xiaoyun about the conditions of the dogs and the shelter. I urged them to persuade Yang Xiaoyun to make improvements. If not, she will lose all her donors. For the first time, I realize that stray dogs on the streets may be living a better life than those in her shelter.
I made four suggestions:
- De-sex male dogs as soon as possible;
- separate males from females;
- separate dogs by sizes; and
- send dogs with skin problems to animal hospitals and separate these dogs from the rest.
Yang Xiaoyun’s flat refusal convinced me that the charges against Yang were actually not baseless.
Very soon, Yang began to demonize me. I was no longer a “goddess of love” and “great and compassionate lady,” good words she used to shower on me. I turned into somebody she hated so much.
To Yang’s Donors Worldwide
What happened to me could happen to you if you ask how your donation has been used. I urge you to go and take a look to see if your hard-earned money has been spent on the dogs. I used to take whatever she said as truth.
My visit confirmed the many charges of her opponents:
• Yang has not been truthful.
• Donation has not been spent on the dogs.
• Dogs die in massive number in her shelter since no veterinary service is used.
• The findings of the 2015 investigation were true.
• The findings of the New York Times were true.
• The decision by major international animal protection groups to withdraw support for Yang is a correct move.
• Some 700 dogs from Yulin in 2015 and rescued on July 7, 2015 disappeared.
• No workers were hired (Her recent claim that she owes salary to workers is a lie.).
• Yang’s shelter is indeed more mysterious than North Korea as a social media post wrote.
Here are a few photos taken by others who were there with me.
I once worshipped Yang Xiaoyun like a cult member. I refused to believe anything negative about her. I was one of her most devoted donors. And I fought with almost everybody who questioned her.
My visit to the shelter opened my eyes. She is no animal helper. Donations that she receives worldwide in the last few years have gone somewhere else.
Donors worldwide have the right to ask where the money has gone to.