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More on China’s Dog Purge

Thanks to The Sunday Herald for this upsetting article. Please be advised that there is some very unpleasant information in this article. One dog policy...

Joy  |  May 20th 2007


Thanks to The Sunday Herald for this upsetting article.

Please be advised that there is some very unpleasant information in this article.

One dog policy puts walking free meals back on the menu
Animal lovers fight back against new digital chips and official death squads
By Andrew McEwen in Beijing

THE JOKE goes that the Beijing 2008 Olympic slogan “One World, One Dream” should be “One China, One Child”, in line with the state’s planned birth policy.

This month one online wag suggested “One China, One Dog”, referring to the recent clampdown on Beijing families who own more than one canine.

News of the clampdown first came, as it so often does, in the official China Daily newspaper: “A Beijing city district will pilot digital implants in dogs’ necks: the hefty 1000 yuan 66 first-year registration fee will include a chip the size of a grain of rice programmed with details of the dog’s breed, birth, inoculations and its owner.”

advertisementThe policeman in charge of dog registration told the official Xinhua News Agency the chips would make it easier not only for owners to take their pets abroad, but also to identify lost dogs.

“What do I think? Well of course it’s basically meaningless,” said private dog shelter owner Zhang Luping.

“Implanting chips in dogs is an operational issue. It misses the big picture. You have got to remember that if any animal gets lost in this city, there are far more serious concerns. That animal can quickly be captured, tortured and eaten.

“What’s the point of sticking a chip in an animal when that animal can be casually killed by anyone, on a whim, with no legal consequences whatsoever?”

Historically, dogs have always had it tough in China, most notably in the countryside, where they remain essentially disposable. With the exception of Tibet, dog meat is eaten throughout China, being revered as a tonic in winter and a restorer of virility in men.

When the communists seized power in 1949, dog ownership was condemned and pets were hunted down as pests. For old-school communists, man’s best friend remains a Western, bourgeois luxury.

Articles in the official media today still portray a typical companion animal as a pampered Pekinese in pink ribbons and bows, being something akin to a luxury yacht, watch or car.

Owning an exotic plaything in nouveaux-riche China is indeed a status symbol and, in the long term, animal activists are betting the pet industry will prove a more influential lobby than the dog meat industry, making humane legislation increasingly inevitable.

“If there is no law, dogs can still be caught by any passing peasant or dog-eater,” said Zhang. “They are effectively a walking free meal.”

In the medium term, activists pick their battles with Beijing’s Maoist regulations: for example, all dogs within the city centre must be no taller than 15 inches; be licensed; be kept on a leash outdoors and away from the elderly, pregnant women and children.

Dogs are banned from nearly all public areas during daylight hours and by night from Tiananmen Square, parks, lawns, commercial streets, supermarkets, shops, restaurants, hospitals, museums, cinemas, stadiums, health centres, amusement parks, waiting halls, elevators and all public transport – including unsympathetic taxis.

Then there is the most serious issue of all: rabies is on the rise, the ministry of health announced late last year. No rabies cases were reported between 1993 and 2004, said Deng Xiaohong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau. But 12 people died of the disease in Beijing between January and November 2006.

Yu Hongyuan, vice-director of Beijing police, announced then: “It’s high time we launched an extensive campaign to tighten the management of these animals.”

And so it was that late last year “dog death squads” returned to the capital, going door-to-door along the streets snatching animals – either dragging them off to be “disappeared” to suburban pounds or beating them to death.

One government in Yunnan Province, south China, stole a march on the Maoist logic: dogs being walked were seized and then battered until dead as their owners looked on, according to the Shanghai Daily newspaper.

During five days of slaughter led by the Mouding County police chief last year, squads entered villages at night creating noise to get dogs barking, then beat to death all animals, whether registered or unregistered.

Owners were offered the equivalent of 30p to kill their own dog before the squads arrived.

Tearful tug-of-love tales soon saturated online chat rooms – though not the official media – spurring an unprecedented illegal public demonstration by a burgeoning alliance of urban dog lovers and animal welfare activists in Beijing during an official Olympic visit.

It was an embarrassed President Hu Jintao himself who finally intervened to end the Beijing cull, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.