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Pets Facing 'House Arrest'

While waiting to have his dog vaccinated at a veterinary station on Wulumuqi Lu last Saturday, Dong Jiaqing, a Shanghai local retiree, complained with other pet owners about the "unreasonable" regulations set by the government.

Decrees unjustified

"Every year we pay a 2,000 yuan ($241) so-called administration fee to the government for our dogs, but what does the government do for the money? Now, they are requiring all dogs be kept at home," said Dong angrily.

Dogs need to be taken outside for exercise. If they do not receive daily sunshine, the animals will become sick, he explained.

"Just to get some space for my dog to go outside, I had to move from my former apartment on the fifth floor to a room on the ground floor, as the latter has a small garden attached."

His complaints were echoed by other pet owners.

"If the restriction is being implemented to avoid dog attacks, or to deal with dog excrement and urine, we can simply use muzzles, and bring bags to pick up after the dogs when we take them for a walk," said Yu Lin, a middle-aged woman.

"If they are worried the dogs may affect the city's image, the government can set a certain time limit for walking dogs. For example, there could be a legal time, such as before 6:00am or after 8:00pm. It is not right for them to issue such a stubborn regulation."

As an ageing city, the increasing number of senior citizens want to own pets.

Their lives are made less lonely by the company of these small animals. And in some pet owners' eyes, their dogs and cats are even better than human beings.

"But it seems that the government doesn't want us to raise pets," said Fu, a man in his 60s.

Ye Xuan, a girl, who was holding her six-year-old Pekinese to her chest, had not known that she could not even walk her pet in the space within her residential quarter.

"My dog is so clean and neat, and all my neighbours like him," she said.

"I give him vaccines every year, and he never bites people. Why can't he walk outside in the residential quarter?"

"There are so many people who have no licence for their dogs, and refuse to have their dogs vaccinated, which accounts for the majority of pet owners," said Wu Gang, a local young man.

"It is them who have caused the problems for those who want to raise pets."

Yet, those who refuse to licence their dogs have their reasons.

"The 2,000 yuan every year for the licence is not a small amount to me," said Wang Cangde, a young woman.

"And even if I choose to pay the amount, the government doesn't give any solid benefits to me. They don't assign sanitation workers to clean dog excrement on the streets, and on the walking issue, licensed dogs don't get any different treatment from unlicensed dogs," Wang said.

Although Wang refuses to buy a licence, she doesn't refuse to have her dog vaccinated twice every year.

"The injection is necessary as it is both good for the dog and people," she said.

"It is something you need to do."

Sympathizers

However, many pet owners do not share Wang's sense of responsibility. Many owners are simply ignorant of the importance of the vaccination, while some say they cannot afford it. However, the charge is not that high - the most expensive injection costs dog owners 180 yuan ($21.69).

"The people who feel the charge is too high are usually those whose dogs cost little money and are common breeds," Wang said.

"Some pet owners just can't see the reason to give such expensive injections to their cheap dogs."

In Wang's eyes, it is these pet owners who actually ruin the city's pet raising environment.

However, the police policy against unlicensed dogs is absolutely the same - sentence them to "prison" no matter whether they are vaccinated or not.

"I dare not take my small dog out of the house until after 10 every night, when there are not so many policemen around," Wang said.

"If my dog is found by the police and I can't show them a licence, they will take my dog away and put him into a small room with many other unlicensed dogs, big or small, well or ill. It won't be long before my dog is dead."

Even though Wang feels the police can be cruel with regards to unlicensed dogs, she realizes that their policy does some good.

So long as the dog is licensed, relevant sectors will remind the pet owners to have the dog vaccinated regularly.

"It might be a practical way to make the city's dog raising situation more respectable," Wang said.

(Shanghai Star April 18, 2002)

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