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Beijing Looks to Round up Stray Dogs, Cats
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Beijing is to build shelters and hospitals for the hundreds of thousands of stray animals wandering the capital's streets, according to the city's bureau of agriculture.

According to a spokesman with the bureau, who declined to reveal his name, it has finished drafting a regulation on the construction of an urban shelter system, which is awaiting approval from the municipal government.

All districts and counties will have access to animal shelters and charity hospitals, which will be funded by the government.

The government will also subsidize animal clinics that vaccinate, sterilize and treat homeless cats, providing half the fees.

The bureau said it has entrusted several animal welfare institutes to help homeless animals.

The news comes alongside heated social debate in a local newspaper about the countless number of stray cats, and their impact on society.

The city's cat population is booming due to a lack of regulations, which would lay out requirements for people who want a cat as a pet, reported Beijing Youth Daily.

Meanwhile, people who have dogs should abide by related regulations, which, for example, require them to register animals at police stations.

Several parks in the city have turned into gathering places for homeless cats and are suffering from damage caused by cat faeces, reported the newspaper.

Beijing Little Animal Protection Association, the only government-approved animal protection institute in the city, estimated that the city has more than 400,000 stray cats scattered across the city's 2,400 communities.

According to Chai Yue, a 24-year-old worker with the association, the cats are deserted for reasons such as moving home, the owner's boredom or because the animal gets sick.

Chai said the best way to protect animals is to establish an animal protection law, as many European countries and Japan have already done.

"The reason that people dare to desert their pets is because they won't be charged if they do," Chai said.

"If the law says people will be fined heavily for such behaviour, they will definitely think twice before throwing out their cats."

Chai's association, three protection groups and a dozen online committees are currently trying to protect these animals.

But Chai said there was a shortage of funds and it was difficult to find homes for the cats.

According to animal medical experts, stray animals not only pollute the environment, but also spread infectious diseases.

(China Daily September 27, 2006)

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