Beijing's ban on 'big dogs' sparks controversy from K J M Varma

Jul 27, 2013, 04:36 IST | PTI

China has banned 'big dogs' in Beijing by terming them as "vicious", sparking a heated debate about the height and breed of the animals and owners' responsibility of regulating canine behaviour.

Since June, local authorities have stepped up enforcement measures by banning breeds of dogs taller than 35 cm in eight key administrative districts and densely populated rural areas. Each household in these areas is allowed to keep no more than one dog, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today. 

The move has created a scare among the dog lovers with fears of their pets being snatched away by the police. Officials say the initiative was implemented following a spate of dog attacks and a number of rabies-related deaths but the move came under criticism even in the official media.

Animal experts pointed out that the size of dogs need not be directly related to their level of ferocity. Some animal welfare organisations have called for an amendment to the ban and a more scientific and humane solution to regulating dog ownership, the report said.

"The viciousness of a dog should be judged according to breeds instead of heights. Using the height as a decisive factor is not reasonable," the report quoted Shen Ruihong, secretary-general of China Beijing Kennel Club as saying. Some, however, considered the ban as a safeguard.

"The population density of Beijing is high. Usually, large dogs are more offensive and could threaten people's safety," said a local Wang Xijun. Some foreign countries have imposed strict punishments on dog owners.

In the United States, if a dog bites a person, the owner is subject to as much as 90-days imprisonment, while in Israel, dog owners need a certificate, according to Shen. Rather than confiscating large dogs, animal experts suggested promoting responsible ownership and punishment for irresponsible owners.

Tian Haiyan, director of Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital, recommended that the government should commission animal hospitals or animal training centres to conduct training schemes.

Trained dogs could be awarded with certificates, which determine their suitability to breed. If these dogs attack in the future, the organisations will be held accountable. "Direct punishment on dogs does not solve the problem.

Dog owners should bear the responsibility of leashing or using masks for their dogs, which will significantly reduce the risk," said Zheng Zhishan, a project officer of the Companion Animal Rescue Program at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Beijing.

"The government should work out a more reasonable legislation or suitable punishment according to the behaviour of dog owners," said Li Xiangjie, a dog owner. 

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