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Dog Disputes in Beijing
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By June 2006, 550,000 dogs in Beijing had obtained their licenses -- a certificate enabling them to legally live in the city, from the local public security bureau, according to a report by China News Week on September 12.

Cheng Yuhua has been striving for the legal living right of his dog Dandan, a 50-cm high basset hound. According to the Dog Management Regulations issued by Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau in 2006, adult dogs with a height over 35 centimeters are on the forbidden list. So the now one-year-old Dandan still has no legal "identity" in this city due to the regulation.

Starting from early 2003, Chen has written to his local government, the public security bureau and the mayor, appealing that a dog's height should not be a set restriction standard, but has so far received no response.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau together with several other departments rounded up illegal dogs in 1,032 communities on August 25. Twenty-seven people were fined 2,750 yuan (US$346). Over 120 dogs of different varieties were detained, with 15 being large-size dogs.

According to Zhao Xu, vice secretary of the Association of Small Animal Protection Beijing, currently, the biggest problem facing Beijing dogs is the conflict between their owners and other residents. "The many complaints and calls we have received are the best evidences to prove this." However, as the representative of dog owners, Chen Yuhua pointed out that they feel the major conflict relates to government management methods.

City of people or city of dogs?

Zheng Zhishan, a project coordinator of the Companion Animal Rescue Program from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), is compiling a pamphlet entitled Love It, Then Give It Sterilization, promoting sterilization for pet dogs in the cities.

Liu Lang, head of Beijing Banlv Animal Hospital, said around half of Beijing's dog owners have had their dogs neutered or spayed. According to the figure of registered 550,000 dogs in Beijing, over 200,000 licensed dogs and hundreds of thousands of unlicensed dogs will rapidly breed across the city.

Canine-related lawsuits are also becoming a major headache for the city's management departments. According to statistics from the Beijing Health Bureau, in January 2005, 6,086 people were injured by dogs in Beijing. Statistics from Beijing Chaoyang District Court indicate that from 2002 to 2003, the court handled no more than 10 cases involving pets, but by the end of October 2004, this figure had jumped to nearly 60.

Accepting or not?

Before 1994, dog-raising was strictly forbidden in Beijing's urban areas. On May 1, 1995, Beijing issued regulations strictly restricting the practice, which led to the first dog-raising craze in Beijing, said Zhao Xu.

It was reported in 2002 that there were 130,960 dogs registered in Beijing. Dog owners were required to pay 5,000 yuan (US$629) to get their dogs licensed in the project's first year. Due to the high registration fee (implemented to restrict dog raising), unlicensed dogs were rampant.

2003 was a turning point. Beijing issued dog-raising management regulations which remain in place to date. The register fee for the first year of ownership was reduced from 5,000 yuan to 1,000 yuan, falling to 500 yuan for further year. Therefore, the number of registered dogs rose to 460,000 in 2005 and 550,000 in 2006.

It is reported that when the per capita GDP of a country reached US$3,000 to 8,000, the pet industry will boom. "Some costal cities and developed regions in China have reached or approached this level", says 2005 China Pet Industry Report.

Even if Beijing were to have one million dogs, the proportion of dog owners would still be a minority when compared with the 15 million population of Beijing. "We need to protect the interests of the majority," said a police officer of the Dog Management Department of Beijing Municipal Public Security.

However, in the eyes of dog owners, there are many ways to balance the conflict. "For example, 20-30 percent of the dog management fee can be used on communities, designating special personnel to be in charge of the dog management in the communities," suggested Chen Yuhua.

Chen has unsuccessfully lobbied the relative departments for publicizing the expenditure of the dog registration fee. According to Tang Yunli, vice director of the General Team of the Public Security Management of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, dog management fees collected in 2004 stood at 80 million yuan (US$10 million). However, Chen feels the only use of the management fee has been an annual free rabies vaccination.

He Jun, president of a dog training school, said "Dogs have their own world, if they want to get along well with the human society, many things need to be changed." He opened a class training dogs to get along well with people, including accepting strangers, body contact during treatment or medical check-ups. He even provides joint lessons for dogs and their owners, but he has met with little success. "In a country that the pet industry is still at it primary stage, people feel only dogs need education," said He Jun.

Although we cannot calculate how many dogs are proper for a city, a lack of restraint in dog-raising will lead to dangerous proliferation. "Almost 100 percent stray dogs are abandoned by their owners," said Tian Yuan, who is in charge of a private organization saving stray animals.

When those stray animals enter society, the risk of them carrying rabies is high, another reason why Liu Lang is working together with over 50 pets hospitals to launch a sterilization plan for stray animals.

"The city is lacking a regulation about animal welfare to forbid people to casually abandon their pets," said Liu Lang.

"Animals enter into cities because of humans. The welfare they enjoy can not only indicate people's love for animals but also will eventually effect the safety and happiness of human," said researcher Qiu Renzong from the Philosophy Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(China News Week, translated by Wang Qian for china.org.cn, September 18, 2006)


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