And Finally

Barking mad idea

Shanghai’s new one-dog policy

Barking mad idea

Time for the snip?

Those paternalistic bureaucrats are at it again. Their target this time: man’s best friend. Shanghai could soon enact a ‘one dog policy’ (in addition to the better known one-child regulations), according to a China Daily report.

The new law would force households with more than one dog to find their ‘surplus’ animal an adoptive family or entrust it to an animal shelter.

The growth of a relatively affluent urban class has stoked a pet ownership boom in many cities. Shanghai’s officials claim a crisis of Malthusian proportions, contending that the city’s 800,000-strong (mostly unregistered) canine population was behind 140,000 attacks on humans last year. Dogs were also blamed for several rabies deaths, as well as numerous incidents of barking and fouling.

Shanghai is not the first Chinese city to contemplate a canine cap. Guangzhou, Chengdu and Beijing have already enacted similar rules (though anecdotal evidence indicates they are widely flouted).

In Shanghai the proposed rule would fine violators $150, a significant sum for most. It will also try to encourage registration by cutting the fee for dog registration from around $300 to $45.

Similar policies have been controversial in all the cities where they have been tried. Many dog owners have come to reciprocate the animal’s legendary loyalty, and see their dogs as akin to family members. New regulations even provoked a ‘mass incident’ in Beijing in 2006, with hundreds of owners protesting outside the city zoo.

At least some of Shanghai’s pet lovers also think the legislation is too heavy-handed. “If you can’t find any adopters and the shelters are full, where would the puppies go?” asked one elderly owner (the draft law says that young animals must be given up when they reach 3 months).

The answer, most likely, is doggy heaven. To prevent that, the government suggests that owners have their dogs neutered. “I think the government should also improve public knowledge about how to raise a dog and how to prevent them from attacking people and littering instead of forcing us to raise one dog only,” argued another Shanghai citizen.

In Britain ­– a country never quite able to shake off a reputation for loving its canines more than its children – there were reports that the Shanghai policy could even lead to political reform. When the Daily Mail’s reporters surfed the Shanghai Dog Pet Forum website they discovered a host of angry dog-owners, including one who suggested: “We should unite together to establish a Dog Party to fight for our rights. If anyone’s dog is taken away we should demonstrate.”

A campaign to get one’s teeth into?

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