A draft regulation on animal epidemic prevention, published on the municipal government website on Saturday to solicit public opinions, contains specific requirements concerning humane treatment of animals.
"It's a crucial and profound move, since this regulation is the first in China. I'm glad to see that there are finally laws governing animal welfare," said Qiang Lei, a Beijing animal rights activist.
The draft law requires that animals be given adequate space, food and water, and that they should not but subjected to fear, pain or injury when they are transported.
Owners should obtain medical treatment for animals that are sick or injured. Violators may be fined as much as 10,000 yuan (US$1,200), according to the draft.
If an animal is to be killed for financial gain, it should be sedated and slaughtered quickly, and it should be isolated to ensure that other animals cannot see the killing process.
The draft also states that primary and junior middle school students should not take part in biological experiments that may lead to an animal's injury or death.
The municipal government will set up special shelters for homeless animals, according to the draft.
Fines for those who mistreat or abandon animals, fail to kill them humanely, or infuse water or other liquids into their bodies range between 2,000 yuan (US$240) and 10,000 yuan (US$1,200).
Anyone who owns animals for commercial purposes and who feeds them inedible goods will be ordered to suspend business and fined between 5,000 yuan (US$600) and 30,000 yuan (US$3,600).
According to the Beijing Municipal Legal Affairs Office, the city's Agricultural Bureau wrote the draft and it will be revised several times after soliciting public opinions.
The regulation is expected to take effect this year after consideration by the city's top legislators.
"I am a little surprised to hear that the law was drafted so quickly," said Qiang, who submitted a proposal for animal welfare legislation to the municipal government in March.
"Beijing took the lead in the country," said Mang Ping, another local animal rights activist.
"The clauses of the draft are identical with the spirit of international rules," she added. "The Chinese used to regard animals as a form of natural resource, and there were no general animal protection laws in China."
(China Daily May 10, 2004)