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China Ends Dog Crackdown

BEIJING, China, December 22, 2006 (ENS) - Tens of thousands of letters from concerned animal lovers around the world and across China have persuaded Chinese President Hu Jintao to halt a national anti-dog crackdown.

The "South China Morning Post" quoted the Chinese President as saying he "was unhappy about the complaints and international media coverage" of the crackdown.

Police in Beijing and other Chinese cities sparked outrage by entering the homes of dog owners and confiscating dogs that were either unlicensed or over 35 centimeters (14 inches) tall. Some dogs were reportedly beaten to death in front of their owners.

The deluge of letters included one that was signed by 60,000 animal lovers from across China. It created the pressure for the police to stop the crackdown, according to a statement by the Beijing Police Bureau to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, which spearheaded a letter-writing campaign in opposition to the crackdown.

Hu

Chinese President Hu Jintao (Photo courtesy Government of China)
"IFAW applauds the decision by President Hu Jintao to stop the crackdown. It shows that the President understands the special bond people feel with their companion animals and that crackdowns targeting dogs is counterproductive to achieving societal harmony," said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW Asia director, who was invited to visit the police dog pound,

"IFAW now hopes the Chinese government will take the next step and work on reforming Beijing's dog regulations so that responsible dog ownership will be promoted and Beijing can welcome the 2008 Olympics with a humane regulation that is scientifically based," Gabriel said.

In an open letter of thanks to President Hu, Jill Robinson, founder and CEO of the Animals Asia Foundation, said," While we fully understand the need to prevent an outbreak of the deadly rabies virus, the savage slaughter of dogs, many of which are much-loved family pets, is not the answer."

"The solution lies in long-term management and control measures as well as public education programmes, which the authorities in Beijing are already addressing," Robinson wrote.

Animals Asia has offered to provide 50,000 "humane" muzzles to the Beijing Municipal Government for distribution to owners of dogs larger than 35 cm to prevent biting and restrict barking.

In her letter, Robinson recommends that authorities undertake "comprehensive and compulsory registration, microchip identification, vaccination and de-sexing programmes, as well as affordable dog training centres."

dog

Large dogs like this one have been confiscated and killed in Beijing and other Chinese cities. (Photo courtesy Sirius GAO)
"We would also like to strongly suggest that the authorities consider raising taxes for pet breeders and pet shops and that all dog markets are closed immediately," she writes.

"Just recently," writes Robinson, "we visited a huge outdoor pet market in Beijing with thousands of dogs on display. Many of them were over the 35 cm limit. The regulations, which were introduced in 2003, have been routinely ignored by both dog lovers and the authorities alike."

The crackdown started in Beijing at the end of October. Officials said it was necessary to fight rabies which claimed 318 lives across China in September.

Officials estimate there are about one million dogs in Beijing, a city of nearly 13 million people.

The city's number of registered dogs rose to 550,523 in 2005, Yu Hongyuan, deputy director of the public security bureau told the official "China Daily" newspaper earlier this month.

"We want to raise public awareness of raising a dog in a civilized way," Yu said.

During the crackdown, Yu said the bureau found more than 29,000 unregistered dogs and 1,698 households that have more than one dog and closed 77 illegal dog breeding locations.

Another 36,000 dogs were registered since the campaign was launched in October.

Liu Yaqing, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Agriculture Bureau, said they provide free rabies vaccine for registered dogs.

Tang Yunli, deputy director of the Social Administration General Force of the bureau, said dogs that are too large to be adopted will be sent to units that need guard dogs or kept in the shelter until they die.

Dying dogs will be euthanized, Tang said.

IFAW's Gabriel said she hopes the Beijing municipal government will revise the regulations.

IFAW's suggests that the size limit of 35 cm be eliminated as it is without scientific basis. "A dog's temperament cannot be judged by its size. The size limit also makes the regulation difficult to enforce," IFAW said in a statement Thursday.

Authorities should regulate commercial breeding and markets, IFAW suggests, saying, "Uncontrolled breeding for trade is the main cause of the dog over population problem."

The animal welfare group says authorities should "regulate the behavior of people, not dogs."

Gabriel said, "We hope to focus on raising the quality of dog owners, not simply taking the dogs away."

Earlier this month, Beijing health authorities said they have designated another 100 animal husbandry and veterinarian centers as animal anti-rabies inoculation points. The total number of designated units is now 319.



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