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Beijing to Shelter Stray Pets
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Shelters and health facilities are to be built in Beijing for the hundreds of thousands of stray animals wandering the streets of the capital, according to the city's bureau of agriculture.

A spokesman with the bureau, who declined to reveal his name, said they'd completed drafting a regulation on the construction of an urban shelter system which awaits approval from the municipal government.

All districts and counties would have access to animal shelters and charity hospitals which will be funded by the government. They'll also subsidize animal clinics that vaccinate, sterilize and treat homeless cats paying half the costs. The bureau said they'd entrusted several animal welfare institutes to help the homeless animals.

The news comes alongside heated social debate in a local newspaper about the countless number of stray cats and their impact on society. The city's cat population is growing rapidly due to a lack of regulations which would lay out requirements for people who wish to keep them as pets, reported Beijing Youth Daily.

And people who have dogs should abide by related regulations which, for example, require them to register animals at police stations.

Several parks in the city have turned into gathering spots for homeless cats and are suffering from being littered with cat feces, reported the newspaper.

Beijing Little Animal Protection Association, the only government-approved animal protection institute in the city, estimated that the city has more than 400,000 stray cats scattered across 2,400 communities.

According to Chai Yue, a 24-year-old worker with the Association, the cats are dumped for many reasons including people moving home, the owner's boredom or animal sickness. Chai said the best way to protect animals was to establish animal protection laws as many European countries and Japan have already done.

"The reason that people dare to desert their pets is because they won't be charged if they do," Chai said. "If the law says people will be fined heavily for such behavior they'll definitely think twice before throwing out their cats."

Chai's association, three protection groups and a dozen online committees, are currently trying to protect these animals. But there's a shortage of funds and it was difficult to find homes for the cats, said Chai.

According to animal experts stray animals not only pollute the environment but can also spread infectious diseases.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2006)

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