Houston Community News >> Beijing One Dog Policy

11/9/2006 Beijing - The authorities announced Wednesday a “one dog” policy for many Beijing households as part of an effort to eradicate rabies.

The official New China News Agency said the limit would apply to nine zones in Beijing.

“Only one pet dog is allowed per household in the zones, and dangerous and large dogs will be banned,” the news agency said. “Anyone keeping an unlicensed dog will face prosecution.”

Rabies is on the rise in China, where only 3 percent of dogs are vaccinated against the disease, which attacks the nervous system. The disease nearly always kills humans after the development of symptoms, though it can be warded off by a series of injections.

Rabies killed 318 people nationwide in September, according to the news agency. There were 2,651 reported deaths from the disease in 2004, the last full year for which data are available.

In Beijing, 69,000 people sought treatment for rabies last year, according to state news media.

The Humane Society of the United States said the Chinese policy failed to address the underlying reason for the rabies crisis.

“The focus should be on rabies vaccination rather than a limitation on the number of dogs in a household,” said Wayne Pacelle, the organization’s president and chief executive. “Large-scale vaccination programs aimed at reducing and eradicating rabies programs do work in large nations.”

Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the policy might prevent people from acquiring more dogs than they could care for.

“It’s sad that it comes to this,” she said, “but for the dogs’ sake, restricting people to one dog stops impulse acquisition, encourages better care and will reduce the numbers who are suffering on the streets.”

The limit on dogs in the capital was announced by the Beijing police and the city agencies for agriculture and commerce, the news agency said. Abandoning dogs will be an offense under the new regulations.

Dog owners will also be forbidden from taking their dogs to public places like markets, shops, parks, exhibition halls, amusement parks, railway waiting rooms and sightseeing areas.

The authorities prompted an outcry in July and August when they conducted several mass killings of dogs. In a county in Yunnan Province, where three people had died of rabies, the authorities killed 50,000 dogs, many of them beaten to death in front of their owners.

Unlike in the West, where dogs have long been cherished as companions or helpmates, dogs have rarely had an easy time in China.

Dog meat is eaten throughout the country, revered as a tonic in winter and a restorer of virility in men.

After the Communist seizure of power in 1949, dog ownership was condemned as a bourgeois affectation and dogs were hunted as pests. Attitudes have softened in recent years, although urban Chinese are still subject to strict rules on the size of their pets and must pay steep registration fees.

(Contributed by AP)