Public debate is growing on the humanity of regulations in a number of cities that refuse to issue social security minimum allowances to families raising pets.
In Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenyang, Harbin, Yangzhou and Shanghai, local bureaux of civil affairs have made it clear that minimum allowance applicants who raise dogs, cats or other pets will not get government stipends.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, some 22 million people in this country are receiving minimum allowances ranging from a few dozen yuan to a little more than 300 yuan (US$36) per month.
Officials say the allowance is to support people with no jobs who cannot manage a basic living. Many supporters insist if a family can afford the luxury of raising a pet, it means it does not need extra financial aid.
Raising a dog in the Northeast China city of Shenyang, for example, means an application fee of 1,000 yuan (US$120) and registration fee of 500 yuan (US$60) per year.
With the addition of food and medical expenses, a large part of the government allowance would have to be used to cover a pet's expenses.
Unregistered pets become "black pets," which is not something the government wants to see, said Yuan Ge, minimum allowance director at Shenyang Civil Affairs Bureau.
A similar regulation in East China's Nanjing in July forced 90 per cent of pet owners receiving minimum allowances to give up their pets in order to retain the financial help, according to local newspaper Jiangnan Times.
Others disagree with the regulations, arguing that raising pets is not the privilege of the rich.
"Why do you take away people's rights to raise a pet?" said a message on news portal Sina.com's comment page. "It is often a poor person who has more love for the little animals, and who are more in need of the company of pets!"
Some said raising a pet does not necessarily cost as much as some wealthy people spend.
"My dog can live happily by just eating some of our leftover food," said Wang Fang, a laid-off worker living in Chaoyang District in Beijing.
Ministry of Civil Affairs officials said the average income of a family is the basic standard to decide if minimum allowances should be issued.
A comprehensive investigation of the family's income should be done instead of simply judging by whether there are pets in the house, they said.
(China Daily December 3, 2003)