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Dog ban on hold amid public outcry
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The implementation of a controversial dog ban in Heihe City of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province was delayed, local authorities said Saturday.

The regulation banning the animal from public places was scheduled to take effect on Saturday, but local officials said they were amending the regulation to make it "more standardized and humane".

According to the regulation issued Wednesday, owners will be fined up to 200 yuan (US$30) 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 suburban district in the city's administrative area.

Dog owners were relieved at the delay.

"The delay might be due to pressure from the public, like the media, and reaction from citizens," said a 24-year-old lawyer who declined to be named. She herself is owner of a Dalmatian.

She said that dog owners should take up their responsibility to vaccinate their dogs, clean the feces and not bring them to some public places, and local government could fine them in case of violation.

In fact, dogs have become a problem in the border city.

According to the Heihe city center of disease control and prevention, nearly 1,000 people were bitten by dogs and received shots of vaccine from January 2008 to this May.

The local public security bureau, health bureau, the bureau of animal husbandry and veterinary, and the city management bureau, which jointly worked out the regulation, gave Xinhua a document.

The document said, "Heihe is a tourism city on the Sino-Russia border, but dogs in the streets tarnish its image."

"Dog feces annoy tourists, especially those from Russia, while dogs also bring forth other bad effects like noise, bacteria, mental burden, and dispute between neighbors...".

To tackle the problem, Zhao Ruizheng, a research fellow with the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said the local government should listen to opinion of the people and avoid backfire of the policy.

"When enacting a policy, they should take people's need and feeling into consideration," he said. "Otherwise the policy would incur people's misunderstanding, discontent, even anger."

Raising pets is part of people's basic rights which should be respected, he noted, adding that maybe a public hearing is a good idea.

Liu Zhibin, a police officer with the Heihe police bureau, said that the local government is soliciting people's opinion to improve the regulation.

"We just want to use the regulation as a warning to residents," he said. "We didn't kill a single dog."

(China Daily May 25, 2009)

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