Dog owners in eastern China are scrambling to get licences and rabies vaccinations for their pets as rumours spread that the authorities are killing strays and unlicensed dogs. Earlier this month, Hangzhou, the capital of eastern Zhejiang province, became the first of several Chinese cities to revise and enforce strict pet regulations as part of what it said was temporary campaign to “civilise” dogs. The Hangzhou campaign started after a woman was beaten by a dog owner for chasing away his unleashed dog from her frightened child. As a result dogs could no longer be walked during the day and had to be on a leash when on the street. Under the new regulations, unlicensed dogs will be impounded and their owners fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,440). Chinese cities put dogs on tight leash after spate of attacks But rumours soon spread online that dog catchers were beating strays to death. The Hangzhou urban management committee quickly rejected the claims, saying it strictly prohibited violence in the rounding up of the animals. Two people were arrested and detained for a week and fined 500 yuan for spreading the rumours, Shanghai-based Thepaper.cn reported on Monday. The authorities also appeared to crack down on discussion of the campaign, with the Weibo hashtag “keeping dogs in Hangzhou” taken offline. “We can’t even discuss raising dogs any more. What’s wrong with Hangzhou?” one user on the Twitter-like service said. Meanwhile, veterinary hospitals have struggled to cope with the sudden influx of dog owners seeking rabies vaccinations, a prerequisite for a dog licence, according to the Qianjiang Evening News . The number of people vaccinating their pets increased from 40 to 800 a day after the campaign started, the report quoted Hangzhou officials as saying. Vets had to turn away cat owners as the queue of dog owners stretched into the street, according to the report. Some dog owners seeking licences for their pets have also been stymied by the city’s ban on 34 large and “aggressive” breeds, including the “Chinese rural dog”, a domesticated mixed breed that can range in size from a terrier to an Akita. One owner of a rural dog was confused as to how it could be considered a large breed as his pet was only 25 centimetres tall, online news portal Guancha.cn reported. Chinese city bans dogs from the street for 15 hours a day to stop attacks The restrictions have been met with opposition from the city’s dog lovers. “These regulations have actually been in place since 1996 and were revised in 2004, they don’t apply to the situation now,” one Hangzhou dog owner said. “Our dogs can no longer see the light of day.” He said the city’s rules overlooked issues like abandonment, stealing, illegal shipping and slaughter of dogs. Irene Feng, from Hong Kong-based welfare group Animals Asia, said local governments did not have much experience regulating dogs and some of the rules were unreasonable. “We believe that managing dogs should be done through managing the owners first. If dog owners can keep their animals on leashes, clean up after their pets and not abandon them, the dog problem will be solved,” Feng said. When the Communist Party came to power in 1949, keeping pets was branded as bourgeois and dogs were seen as merely for sustenance. However, as the Chinese economy expanded, dog ownership increased, growing 15 per cent a year to 50 million registered dogs throughout the country, the China Pet Products Association said in a report earlier this year.