It’s dog eat dog as China declares war on man’s best friend ... and his owner

Governments across the country are imposing new restrictions on canine companions following a slew of complaints about irresponsible owners

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 10:54pm

Owners of pet pooches in China are in the doghouse.

While they may spend more than 100 billion yuan (US$14.8 billion) a year on their four-legged friends, they are letting them go unregistered, attack others, or are not cleaning up after them – triggering a slew of complaints and bans from local governments.

To control the burgeoning dog population and maintain safety and hygiene standards, several cities are enforcing or amending rules for keeping pet dogs, restricting the number, size and species of dogs that one can adopt.

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From September, Hangzhou will only allow 34 species of dogs which are below 45cm tall and 60cm long in downtown areas. Qingdao has started banning the raising of 40 species and limited the number of pet dogs to one per household starting early last month.

Many cities have their own rules on pet dogs, led by megacities such as Beijing, which introduced regulations back in 1994 and followed with amendments several times thereafter.

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They mostly limited the size of the dog that could be adopted and required dogs to be registered and given regular vaccines. The cost to finish registration procedures ranged from several hundred yuan to 2,000 yuan.

In the latest move, Hefei and Qinhuangdao, besides the other two cities mentioned above, are amending decade-old dog policies as few pet owners can be bothered to follow official procedures.

In Hefei, only a few people came to police stations to apply for a dog permit that cost 2,000 yuan, according to regulations first issued in 2000, the official Xinan Evening News reported. Things haven’t improved even after the city cancelled the charge in 2005.

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Wei Yan, a Beijing-based housewife who has raised two Samoyeds since 2011, said her dogs were not registered. “In fact, I don’t know where to register them at all,” she said.

The two dogs, both 60cm tall and over 65cm long, are well-behaved and receive regular vaccine injections, Wei said.

“I think regulations are useless if there is no one to implement them. The city is so large that they can not monitor every corner of it,” she said.

Under existing rules, police bureaus are responsible for handling cases of dogs attacking humans and the registration of dogs. Animal husbandry departments ensure a dog receives vaccines properly.

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Health authorities oversee vaccines for humans against rabies. Industrial and commercial departments are responsible for the orderly marketing of pets and related products.

The South China Morning Post tried to seek comments on the first issue from the Ministry of Public Security, but calls to its publicity department were not returned.

According to a report by industrial website, Chinese consumers spent 122 billion yuan on pets and related products and services last year, and the spending is expected to rise on average 20.5 per cent each year between 2017 and 2020.

Guangdong and Jiangsu are the top two provinces for pet-raising, according to the report. Guangdong ranks first in number of pet service providers, accounting for more than 12 per cent of the nation’s total, it said, followed by Jiangsu, Shanghai and Beijing.

Official data are unavailable on the total number of registered pets on the mainland.

In Guangdong – whose 100 million population had 150 million registered pets – there were 44 deaths from rabies last year, official data showed.

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Nationwide, the health ministry reported more than 590 deaths from the disease in the same period. This is a major decrease from eight years ago due to improvement of vaccine injection.

But reports of injuries by dogs are still on the rise as the dog population grows, according to local disease control centres.

Just last week, a woman in Xian, Shaanxi province, died from rabies weeks after she was bitten by a dog despite being vaccinated against the disease.

In a press conference in November, the Ministry of Public Security’s spokesman Wu Heping said complaints about dogs injuring people and disturbing their lives have been widespread, and said the ministry intends to clamp down on such cases. But he also stressed that the issue requires a joint effort involving other departments, improvements in legislation and education from the media.

Zhao Li, an office worker who has kept pet dogs for 10 years in Beijing, said much more needs to be done. Whether a dog can be harmless to the public depends on the owner’s sense of social responsibility, she said.

Zhang Qun, who used to be the operations director of a Beijing-based pet company, said that instead of government supervision, educating pet owners would be more valuable in preventing dogs from annoying others.

“I think the registration of pets only works in terms of recording the number of pets, but isn’t helpful in preventing them from affecting public safety,” said Zhang, who has left the industry now but still keeps an eye on it.

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Speaking as someone who has had a companion dog for more than 10 years, she said whether a pet is trouble to others largely depends on the owner.

“For example, the bark problem can be improved with the owner’s training,” she said. “And for possible harm to public environment, such as the excrement issue, I would say almost all dogs can improve or refrain from doing so after being trained.”