Leopold Vincent and his cats.
Over the past four years, he has not only offered three meals a day for all of his animals, but also taken care of them, giving them the best living conditions, and above all, his tender love.
Taking care of 40 cats might be beyond one’s ability but Vincent says sometimes the number of cats under his care rises to 50 or 60.
“Some people found those abandoned cats on the street and brought them to me. Some I found left in plastic bags amidst garbage, or lying on the street, hungry and dirty,” Vincent recalls.
Now in his 50s, the Frenchman does not raise the cats for any business purposes but simply keeps them as pets. “I’ve been here [in Vietnam] for ten years and the way certain people treat the animals makes me sick so I’ve decided to do something for the animals,” he explains why he has come to animals’ rescue.
Vincent does not just quietly open his arms to those pets. He strongly raises his voice on the Internet and social networks. At first, he created a blogging site, and then cooperated with some friends to develop the website Vietnam Animals Cruelty (VAC) written in French, English and Vietnamese, and also the Facebook page with the same name.
The VAC website and Facebook are born with an aim to call for support and help rescue animals from being beaten, stolen, killed, and to find them a new home.
“I made these,” Vincent points to the T-shirt he is wearing which has some words urging people not to eat dog meat, and two other shirts with slogans and printed pictures calling for animal protection. He sells those shirts via the Internet to raise funds for his pets. These shirts have been sold out and he is looking for money to make more.
His project sounds easy on the paper, but not in reality.
“It’s not easy. It’s quite difficult,” he says in a low-pitch voice.
Before renting his current apartment, Vincent used to live in District 5, where he rented a bigger apartment with a wide terrace more comfortable for cats and also for him.
But things went complicated when the neighbors around complained about his cats and he got into trouble with the police sometimes for disturbing the public. Two months ago, he moved to District 2 and tried every way to make sure his pets would not sneak out.
Apart from food, Vincent has to take those cats to the veterinary center as their health conditions are mostly bad when he received them. On average, he now has to spend around VND200,000 on their medical bills a day.
Holding Lily, a new female cat in his big family, Vincent recalls, “Someone gave me this cat a few weeks ago and I had to bring her to the vet every week since then. People tried to kill her; they beat her and cut her tail. Now she’s all right but still has to take some medicine.”
Vincent gives an affectionate name to each of his pets. Josephine, Cam, Winter, Sugar, Lily, and Rose are a few names he uses for them.
Pointing at Rose, he says the cat is not very friendly with him. The cat has a problem with one of her eyes, so Vincent still has to give her medicine every day, or another one who has trouble with his nose and also needs treatment.
In his first years in Vietnam, Vincent had some fixed jobs: He worked as a bartender and a tattoo artist, a job that leaves ink on his skin now. He also went back to Europe previously to work for three to six months every year and then came back with his earnings.
Vincent once also wanted to open a club with slow and soft music in HCMC where people could come, talk to each other and enjoy the music but could not make his dream come true. And ever since he chained his life with those pets, Vincent has not returned to his homeland or thought of opening the club anymore.
These days, Vincent spends most of his time at home and earns income through seasonal jobs on the Internet. He also tries to give English or French lessons at home.
“Sometimes, some people ask me to take care of their dogs and cats for a few days or weeks when they are away from home and pay me,” he says about the job in an interesting voice as if it made him happy the most.
Apart from support from his friends in France, many people in Vietnam have also come to help him and make donations for his pets thanks to his fame on the Internet.
“Just two or three weeks ago, I saw a small dog in a cage. He was about to be sold to a dog meat restaurant. I came back home quickly and wrote an article on Facebook and a few minutes later, some people came to help me. We bought the dog and a Vietnamese student then helped to give that dog to a family in Vung Tau City that wanted to raise him,” Vincent describes one of his animal rescue missions.
“I also contact some big organizations such as No To Dog Meat foundation in the UK. I work as a kind of witness in Vietnam and report to them what I see through my articles and videos,” he explains more about what he is doing.
However, becoming known by many people also brought him problems when people have brought boxes and cages of kittens to his place and left them there. He cannot do anything but raises those cats.
Pointing to Winter, a small white kitten, Vincent says the little cat was put in front of his house in District 5 along with three other kittens. The other three have died as they were too weak and only Winter survived.
“I don’t want to leave Vietnam yet. There’re still many people who love animals in this country and I rely on them to improve the situation,” says Vincent.