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Honoring their Final Minutes
Photographer takes pictures of shelter dogs before they're put to sleep
Photograph by Tou Yun-fei

A photographer in Taiwan is on a mission to get people to take a serious look at the way animals are treated in his country. Tou Yun-fei takes photos of dogs at the Taoyuan Animal Shelter in the moments before they are euthanized. In the last two years, he's captured the images of 400 dogs.

Activists say that 70 percent of dogs in Taiwanese shelters are killed after the 12-day waiting period.  Tou began his project because he didn't think the media was giving enough attention to the problem and felt that too many people considered these animals disposable.

After Tou photographs the dogs, vet techs take them for a last walk in a grassy courtyard, then lead them into a small room where they are euthanized.

Some of his friends refuse to look at the photos, and I can certainly see why. The pictures are haunting.  They look like the kind of portrait that a dog lover would commission of their beloved pet. But then you realize that these dogs were not saved in time and have already been put to sleep.

The project is heartbreaking, if a little morbid, but an important one. I've met photographers who take striking photos of homeless pets in the hopes of catching the eye of a potential adopter, but Tou's project hopes to be much bigger and change the way people view and treat these animals.

It's not easy to inspire cultural change, but Tou's photographs might just be the project to spark conversation and force people to rethink longstanding beliefs.

A selection of Tou's photos will be exhibited in his first full scale show in August at the Fine Arts Museum in  Kaohsiung, Taiwan. For those not in the area, you can view his work online.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photograph by Tou Yun-fei

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