‘Too cute’: that was the reason why three police dogs were eliminated from the Ministry of Public Security’s training programme and auctioned off to ordinary citizens earlier this month.
In total 54 dogs were sold at the sale: all of them rejects from the Police Dog Technical School in the northeastern city of Shenyang.
Other reasons for failing to pass muster as a fully-fledged police dogs included “timidity”, “physical weakness” and “failure to bite on command”.
Dogs with floppy ears or curly hair were also rejected on the basis that no one would fear them.
The 54 dogs, mostly German Shepherds, were in great demand – with 84,000 people downloading the form to apply for the auction. On the day itself the school had to limit participants to the first 2,000 arrivals and the most expensive dog was sold for Rmb330,000 ($51,007) – up from a starting price of Rmb200.
All proceeds went to the government and the buyers had to sign statements promising not to breed the dogs or resell them.
One buyer who travelled from the southern city of Shenzhen said he planned to buy his new pet five different types of food so he could choose the one he liked best. “As I spent a lot on buying the dog, I want to treat it better,” the Beijing News reported the new owner as saying.
Pet ownership in China has skyrocketed in recent years as household incomes have increased. A growing number of singletons have opted for four-legged companions too. In 2019 over 61 million households owned registered pets, an increase of 8% on the previous year. Dogs accounted for more than half the total.
Because of China’s proclivity for pedigree dogs (and often for larger ones too – remember the craze for Tibetan Mastiffs, see WiC199), some worry that the police dogs are still likely to be resold or used to breed. “Why pay so much money for a dog? Of course, some of these people want to breed from them and then claim that they are police dogs,” warned one netizen.
Others questioned why the dogs weren’t neutered before the auction and why their new owners weren’t vetted before being allowed to bid. “An adoption system would be better than an auction,” a Sina Weibo user complained.
As with pet ownership, ‘service’ dogs are relatively new to China (see WiC539 for our story on guide dogs, of which there are only an estimated 223 in the entire country).
China’s four main police dog training centres were founded in 1981 after former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping took note of dogs working for the police during a visit to the US. He then ordered the creation of a similar force at home.
Prior to that the People’s Liberation Army had started a dog breeding programme but it had been interrupted by the Cultural Revolution.
China’s first search-and-rescue dogs entered service in 2001 and have since proved their worth in various natural disasters.
A Belgian Shepherd called Zhanshen saved 34 lives over the course of his career, for instance, sometimes travelling to disaster zones around the world with Chinese rescue teams. Working in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Yushu, Zhanshen was suffering from altitude sickness but still managed to alert his handlers to a spot in the rubble, the Chinese media recalled. The rescue team started digging and five hours later they pulled a little girl out alive.
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