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Dog owners barking mad over ban in NE China city
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Dog owners have voiced fears that their pets will be killed under a new regulation banning the animals from public places in northeast China's Heihe City.

According to a regulation issued Wednesday, owners will be fined up to 200 yuan (30 U.S. dollars) if their dogs are found in "restricted areas" from Wednesday to Friday.

From Saturday, dogs found in these areas will be put down, it said.

The "restricted areas" include the city proper of Heihe and four villages of a rural district in the city's administrative area.

The controversial ban, which was jointly issued by the local public security bureau, public health bureau, the bureau of animal husbandry and veterinary and the municipal bureau of city administration and law enforcement, is an extension of an earlier policy of Heihe.

According to the 2006 regulation, only unlicensed dogs, unvaccinated dogs and dogs that have rabies were on the disposal list.

The latest regulation did not explain the extension.

The ban aims to "safeguard public health and maintain public order and the public security," it said.

Some Heihe residents, however, do not agree with the local government that the ban will make them safer.

"Being together with Xiaomei brings me sense of security," said a 50-year-old woman surnamed Xu, a local resident holding her husky.

Xu, whose husband is often away on business, walks the dog in the park near her house every morning.

"I'd rather have myself killed than have Xiaomei killed," she added.

Zhou Kun, who lives outside the "restricted areas," has had to turn down many of his friends who asked him to shelter their dogs.

"It's out of my capability," Zhou said with a sigh.

He said he could not believe the "cruel" regulation when he first read it.

"If they begin slaughtering dogs, we will protest and appeal to the higher authorities for help," Zhou said.

Their fears were shared by Lu Di, founder of the Beijing-based China Small Animal Protection Association.

"A city without dogs is unimaginable," Lu said. "The association, along with its tens of thousands of members, is against such a ban."

Lu said two days ago, a little boy in Heihe called him and asked him to save his dog.

"People keep calling, voicing their dissatisfaction. Even people who do not have dogs feel the ban is irrational," he said.

But a woman official with the city administration defended the ban.

"Dogs pose a threat to kids outside and their excrement and urine on streets are detrimental to the environment," she said on condition she was not named.

(Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2009)

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