Though many people in China continue to see dog meat as a delicacy, some of their peers have begun to accept the idea of animal welfare.
A group of animal welfare organs will be designated to house stray animals in the nation's capital, according to sources with the Beijing Agriculture Bureau.
Negotiations are under way between the bureau and related city government departments on the issue.
Under the financial support of the city agricultural bureau and the municipal government, the designated animal shelters will be required to provide free vaccination and veterinary services for the homeless animals they house.
At the annual session of the municipal legislature early this year, some policy makers advanced proposals on formulating a law of little animal protection.
Beijing has worked out a package of detailed measures to implement the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law of China and eight sets of supporting rules, including regulations on animal shelter and control.
The animal shelter rules cover stray animals, animals abandoned by their owners and animals in danger. Animal shelters in Beijing should provide food, drinking water and vet services for the animals they accommodate, and should take measures to prevent the animals from being injured, harassed and abused.
Officials with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said that there are about a dozen animal shelters in Beijing, with most of them operating in an overloaded manner. An animal shelter in Xiaotangshan, on the city's outskirts, alone has accommodated approximately 500 stray animals, a number already far beyond its capacity.
The IFAW was "very pleased that the municipal government has decided to engage in the animal sheltering," according to the IFAW officials. The international institution has also voiced its hope that Beijing will promulgate special rules to punish pet abandonment, the officials added.
Besides government efforts, some individuals in China have become believers in the concept of animal welfare.
Zhang Yi, head of an association of little animals in eastern China's largest metropolis Shanghai, has donated more than 2 million yuan (about US$241,000) to adopt nearly 1,000 dogs and cats.
Not only have their perceptions about urban pets and homeless animals changed, more and more Chinese have also changed their traditional ideas about animals kept in zoos.
Since late March this year, the Shanghai Wildlife Park has stopped feeding tigers and lions with live chickens and rabbits to protect the welfare of the latter.
Prior to the move, 25 wild animal parks from some major Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, signed a letter pledging to ensure animal welfare.
"Wild animal parks have taken a lead in China to pay attention to animal welfare. This is significant for building a harmonious relationship between humans and animals," said Feng Zuojian, secretary-general of the China Animal Society.
(Xinhua News Agency June 10, 2005)