Mrs. Chen can't imagine abandoning one of her two best friends: her scruffy terrier mutt and a white fluffy Pekingese mix with buggy eyes.
But she has few choices as the local government in the southern Chinese city implement a one-dog policy in Guangzhou.
Beginning July 1, each household can raise only one pooch. The regulation won't be grandfathered in, so families with two or more dogs will apparently have to decide which one gets to stay.
"It's a cruel regulation. These dogs are like family. How can you keep one and get rid of the others?" said Chen, who declined to give her full name.
The regulation appears to be part of an effort to control stray dogs in Guangzhou. An hour north of Hong Kong by train, it is one of the richest cities in China and has a rapidly growing middle class that can afford to own dogs.
Many of the first-time pet owners don't bother to spay or neuter their animals and are new to the burdens of keeping an animal. The canines often end up on the street when their owners grow tired of raising a cute puppy that grew up into a big mutt.
Guangzhou is also preparing to host the Asian Games next year. Reducing the dog population will likely mean cleaner sidewalks.
People were quick to react to the regulation when it was announced in March, said Mao Mao, who six years ago founded a shelter for stray dogs called Family of the Pet. She said that before March, she would receive only a few calls a month from dog owners who wanted to give up pets.
"Since March, every day we get about 10 calls a day," said the woman, who takes in only strays and advises pet owners how to find new homes for their animals.
"I'm afraid there are going to be many more stray dogs in July when the one-dog regulation becomes effective," she said.
Many other Chinese cities, including Beijing, have long had one-dog policies.
Recently, Beijing has been changing its approach to animal control, said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. City officials have been working with the fund and veterinarian associations to organize campaigns to spay and neuter animals, she said.
Getting the dogs fixed is key to controlling the population, she said. Also important is regulating dog breeders and keeping fees for dog tags and vaccines affordable so people will register their animals.
Dog owners in Guangzhou aren't sure if the one-dog policy will be strictly enforced.
Chen, the owner of the Pekingese and terrier mixes, said her plan was to register one of her dogs with her parents to get around the policy.
(Agencies via China Daily June 19, 2009)