Pet ownership comes with responsibilities
The one-dog policy, among other measures, is being extended to more areas of the mainland to help keep the pet population in check
Amid growing complaints against the nuisance arising from the pet boom on the mainland, the one-dog policy – in which a family is allowed to keep only one canine friend– is being extended to more places, along with restrictions on the breeds allowed. The rules are made for the sake of enhancing discipline and responsibility. But whether it makes a difference in reality is another matter.
Health authorities said human fatalities associated with rabies had been on the decline as a result of improved vaccinations. But with the national death toll still hitting 590 last year, the case for stronger regulation and enforcement is evident. For instance, a Qingdao household can only keep one dog from a list of 40 breeds approved by the authorities. Similarly, the city of Hangzhou is to ban dogs of certain sizes and breeds in downtown areas starting from next month. The rules may sound overly restrictive to pet lovers. After all, the problems lie with those owners who do not take good care of their pets. But when responsibility is not taken seriously, intervention is called for.
The responses of some dog owners, as reported by the South China Morning Post earlier, underline the lack of awareness and responsibility. A Beijing woman who has been keeping two Samoyeds for six years said she had no idea where to register her dogs, even though rules have been in place since 1994. She also questioned whether the authorities could possibly monitor every pet. While she was right in saying that rules without enforcement were useless, it is no excuse for defiance. The problem will get out of control if hundreds of millions of dog owners ignore the rules.
The growing popularity of owning pets in China represents a cultural shift. In 2006, the number of pet dogs across the country was estimated to be 150 million. Today, Guangdong province alone has 150 million. The spending on pets and related products and services also reached 122 billion yuan (HK$141.31 billion) last year. While there are still places where canines end up on the dining table, the emergence of pet ownership underlines a gradual change, which, hopefully, can help cultivate better respect for animal rights on the mainland.