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Every dog has its day as Heihe orders canine cull
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Dog owners are howling with rage in Heihe, Heilongjiang province, after the city banned dogs and ordered a canine cull in a bid to combat rabies and clean up the streets.

Under the new rule, all dogs face a death sentence - even those kept indoors. Residents who need to keep dogs because of work or special circumstances can apply for an exemption at the local police bureau and will have to have their dogs vaccinated, authorities said.

If anyone is caught with a dog in a public park, they not only stand to lose their pet but collect a fine of up to 200 yuan ($29), a city government circular issued on Wednesday stated.

"Dog excrement is found in many areas ... posing a serious challenge to our goal of building up a clean and beautiful city," said an official of Heihe's public security bureau, who declined to be named, on Friday.

The city's hard-line stance has enraged dog owners and animal welfare activists.

"Regardless of any reason, depriving dogs of their lives and taking away the rights of dog owners is illegal," said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

She said Heihe is using "the most cruel and violent method" to deal with dogs, instead of seeking constructive ways to accommodate them.

Heihe's dog ban is the latest interpretation of a 2006 provincial regulation on dog management, which set up strict rules on the subject of raising and trading the animals.

The IFAW pointed to Beijing, which actively promotes ways to keep its more than 800,000 dogs without compromising disease prevention, as an example of how cities should co-exist with dogs.

Public policy analysts also voiced concerns about Heihe's decision-making process in light of the dog prohibition.

The decision does not consider the interests of the dog owners and other social factors, said Mao Shoulong, a professor who specializes in public policy at Renmin University of China.

"Heihe's policy should be more balanced and think about the concerns of different interest groups," he said.

Mao said it was unreasonable to suggest a cull of dogs would prevent rabies in the city.

"The government should improve their services instead of charging the dog raisers for licenses."

(China Daily May 23, 2009)

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