Pet lovers in Heihe can now keep "one small dog" under temporary restrictions after the local government decided to scrap plans to kill every canine in the city.
"Owners must first apply for a license, while those with large and "dangerous" breeds have been banned from exercising them on city streets.
Dogs found to have rabies will still be exterminated, the authorities said.
The new rules follow less than a week after the city, which lies on the border with Russia in Heilongjiang province, backed down over a controversial proposal to end the threat of rabies.
The municipal public security bureau, as well as the local bureaus for health, city management and animal husbandry, had planned to fine owners up to 200 yuan ($30) between May 20 and 22 -- and then kill any dog found in the city after May 23.
But the authorities dropped the scheme following a public outcry, and officials are now petitioning pet owners for ideas on how to make the city "harmonious for people and dogs".
Notices asking for feedback have already been placed in local newspapers and online.
"The move reflects the government's willingness to listen, respond and learn," Su Shijie, director of the Heihe publicity office, told China Daily yesterday.
However, Su added that the city, which has a population of 140,000, still faces a formidable challenge to accommodate canines.
Dogs have injured more than 1,000 residents in the past year, he said, and animal excrement continues to mar city streets, with the municipal government afraid it could drive away tourists.
"We are very worried that if the dog situation gets out of control, it could hurt the city's image," Su said.
Animal welfare activists yesterday welcomed Heihe's decision to ditch the controversial pooch policy.
"It is very encouraging to see the government cancel the ban, adopt feasible and humane methods and consider public opinion," He Yong, spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Beijing, told China Daily.
"Scrapping the ban shows the public voice is now becoming an impetus to government policymaking," said Mao Shoulong, a professor in public policy at Renmin University of China.
(China Daily May 27, 2009)