While dog owners in the U.S. are engaged in a never-ending battle with people who want to enact dangerous-dog laws, dog owners in Beijing are facing an unimaginable crackdown.
Though Beijing has banned large-breed dogs since 2003, in the past couple of weeks the police have suddenly begun rounding up dogs, according to a story in the New York Times.
What does that look like? Imagine police carrying about nighttime raids, bursting into homes, and snatching up dogs — “wrenched from the grip of their distraught owners,” writes the Times, “even those that had been legally registered with the authorities.”
“I feel like we’re living in one of those war movies in which the Communists are searching for the Japanese and threatening to wipe them out,” said Dou Dou’s adoptive mother. “How can the government be so cruel?”
The police are often tipped off to the existence of larger dogs by neighbors. And because the ban includes more than 30 breeds, many of them far removed from the “dangerous dog” label — including Collies, Dalmatians, Greyhounds, and Australian Shepherds — the dog-owning public is freaking out.
“People are in a complete panic,” said Mary Peng, chief executive of a Beijing pet hospital. “My phone has not stopped ringing.”
Adding to the anger is the fact that the police, in recent years, have been licensing large-breed dogs across the city and collecting the annual $160 registration fee, according to people who spoke to the Times.
While the rich have been spiriting their dogs away to kennels and farms outside the city, others have been forced to go into hiding.
“I’m not about to give up one of my dogs without putting up a fight,” said Huang Feng, who owns a pet store. “What’s happening is criminal.”
Beijing officials did not respond to the Times’ interview request, but the story says that the police have been citing the uptick in rabies’ deaths as one of the reasons for the enforcement. Also, police maintain that big dogs are incompatible with city living.
If all that is unimaginable to you, it gets worse: Once confiscated, owners can never retrieve their dogs, reports the Times. And animal rights advocates say that many dogs, aside from the pedigree ones, are sent to dog-meat traders.
The dog catchers are also operating under quotas, forced to bring in dogs every night. One resident talks about police sweeping through her neighborhood with nets and metal snares, throwing more than a dozen dogs, some bloodied, into a metal cage on the back of a police truck.
“Every time there’s a knock at the door, my heart stops,” she said. “I just don’t understand why people think big dogs are a menace. My dog might be big, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”