Beijing has become notorious for the extremely poor quality of its air, leading many to don masks and to be wary of venturing outside. But some residents of China’s capital city have found themselves having to stay inside for another reason. As of June 13th, the Beijing Municipal Police Department has been making it a policy to capture any large or “aggressive” dogs found in the city, according to an animal advocacy organization, World Grassroots Alliance for Paws in China (WGAPC).
In 2012,†about a†million dogs were registered in Beijing.†The city has long had a ban on dogs taller than 13.7 inches in the districts that comprise its center. On June 2nd, the police announced that they would actively enforce this law. Beijing pet owners were told they had ten days to relocate their dogs outside the city. If they did not, their dogs would be “retained” and private owners fined around $800 and businesses, about $1,600.
Noting that 13 people died of rabies in 2012 in Beijing (more than double the number in 2011), police are claiming that big dogs are simply incompatible with city living. “All resistance as well as violence against enforcement will be investigated and dealt with by the police,” an official statement reads.
Even more, WGAPC says that the Beijing police are encouraging people to report those who are not complying with the new policy by offering cash incentives. Police have set up a hotline for callers to anonymously report dog owners and posted wanted posters. Police officers who seize at least ten dogs can also receive cash awards.
41 breeds, including bulldogs and collies, have been banned because they are deemed to be “violent.” Labradors, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are also specifically being targeted due to their size, says WGAPC, which recounts a horrid story about three security officers and two police men beating a girl’s golden retriever to death after learning that the dog was not registered.
The police are not just targeting dogs it deems to be large. Stray dogs and small dogs who have not been registered are also being captured, according to WGAPC. Even small dogs who have been registered can be taken from their owners: one elderly man had to tearfully hand over his small dog to police because he did not have the dog’s registration papers with him.
Once confiscated, dogs cannot be retrieved by their owners. Police say they are†sent to a shelter but animal advocates say that, unless the dogs are high-end breeds, they are ending up in the hands of dog meat traders.
Due to all this, pet owners in Beijing have been thrown into a “huge panic,” as Mary Peng, chief executive of the International Center for Veterinary Services, tells the New York Times. Those who can afford it have sent their dogs to kennels outside Beijing; others have resorted to hiding their pets and waking in the wee hours of the night to walk them. “Iím not about to give up one of my dogs without putting up a fight,” says Huang Feng.
As Peng underscores, “there is no bona fide scientific correlation between size and behavior”; it is incorrect simply to equate the size of a dog with aggressive behavior.
The Beijing policy’s crackdown on large dogs recalls breed specific legislation in some U.S. municipalities. Such laws banning breeds such as pit bulls and bulldogs have also been made in the name of safety and fears of dog attacks. But they are†not inaccurately called breed-discriminatory laws and are not effective.
The ASPCA notes that such laws can actually end up punishing responsible owners and dogs, contribute to a “false sense of security” and even encourage irresponsible people to seek out banned dogs. “Ironically, the rise of Pit Bull ownership among gang members and others in the late 1980ís coincided with the first round of breed-specific legislation,” says the ASPCA.
Wang Liqun, the founder of an animal rescue organization in Beijing,†says that what is really needed is for the government to “take effective measures against dog owners instead of seizing their pets,” by making sure that would-be owners are trained about the responsibilities of raising and caring for a dog.
The Beijing police’s seizure of stray dogs and dogs whose owners simply could not produce registration documents because they had left these at home suggests that something more like a crackdown on dogs in general is being carried out. Is the recent confiscation of dogs yet another way that the government is seeking to clamp down on the rights of Chinese citizens?
Photo via damhyojung/Flickr