A happy, lively 6-year-old golden retriever named Dou Dou became the object of a police pursuit in July after wanted posters featuring 41 breeds of dogs including golden retrievers were posted across China’s capital city of Beijing. Police patrols have regularly raided the apartment complex where Dou Dou, along with other offending breeds, are believed to live in a campaign that is terrorizing otherwise law-abiding dog owners, reports the New York Times.
Golden retrievers are just one of dog breeds including dalmatians, Labradors, collies, old English sheepdogs and standard poodles that have long been on the Beijing government’s list that bans them from much of the city as “large and vicious” dogs but licenses at $160 have been issued for them as pets. Suddenly, owners find themselves facing a fine and, worse yet, seizure and a death sentence for four-legged furry family members more than 13.7 inches in height.
Owners can be fined $800, which doubles if the owner is a business. Once confiscated, large dogs cannot be reclaimed.
A rule published by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau on June 2 said “dogs 35 cm in height or taller, or that are one of 41 breeds identified as violent such as bulldogs and collies, will be banned in designated areas, including central districts and some rural regions across the capital.”
However, district governments and local police have the right to decide where dogs can and cannot be kept, and the city rule is not as simple as saying that these “huge and dangerous” dogs are banned within the Fifth Ring Road, the Times explains.
The prohibition has been on the books since 1994, but it was not enforced until a sudden order by the government following issuance of the fact that human rabies deaths have risen to 13 during 2012, doubling the number in 2011. This has been blamed on the rapid increase in companion dogs and attributed to size, rather than failure to vaccinate.
“People are in a complete panic,” said Mary Peng, chief executive of the International Center for Veterinary Services, a pet hospital in Beijing. “My phone has not stopped ringing.” There are more than 1 million dogs in Beijing, Peng stated, and it is not common for them to receive rabies vaccines. “In China, only 10-20 percent of dogs have been vaccinated [for rabies], compared to more than 70 percent in the U.S.,” Peng said.
According to the New York Times report, there have been police raids at night on homes, and dogs have been ripped from the arms of devoted owners — even those that are legally registered. Distraught pet owners find themselves mistrusting dog-hating or fearful neighbors turned informants.
Xiangdong, a police officer, confirmed they had already begun enforcing the rule and crackdowns are routine and occur regularly.
Many of the large dog breeds are owned by young professionals who have inculcated the Western world’s mania for canines and have the disposable income to afford a pet. Large dogs have also become a favorite of couples who find that China’s one-child restriction leaves room in their homes and hearts for a four-legged “child” also. Many big bowsers also find themselves overindulged by retirees who have benefited from the Chinese economic skyrocket during the past few decades and now find solace in spoiling a creature that provides unconditional love and companionship on walks.
The well-heeled have been bundling off their boxers and oversize poodles to kennels outside the city limits, while others who cannot afford such accommodations are keeping their pets hidden at home, according to the New York Times.
Recently, dog owners have been posting stories of heartbreaking encounters with the police, and a video that went viral last week shows an officer confiscating a small, white, overweight dog whose elderly owner argues that he merely left his dog license at home.
Last week, police detained a woman who described how officers had kicked a golden retriever to death in front of its owner. The police later issued a statement saying the woman admitted to fabricating the story — which has not convinced the public, according to the Times report.
The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau contends that big dogs are incompatible with city living.
“All resistance as well as violence against enforcement will be investigated and dealt with by the police,” the bureau said in a statement.
With the exception of high-end pedigrees, animal-rights advocates say many of the seized animals are likely to end up in the hands of dog meat traders or in cages at restaurants that serve dog meat.
“We wish the police could find a more humane way to deal with this issue,” said Feng Dongmei of the dog and cat welfare program at Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based organization that wrote the government to plead for a change in the city’s dog regulations."There is no bona fide scientific correlation between size and behavior."
Instead of hunting down large dogs, advocates say the government should focus on administering rabies vaccines and requiring owners to leash their pets and encourage people to spay and neuter their dogs, which can also have a calming effect on the canines.
Pet owners are scrambling for ways to keep their dogs out of harm’s way. Some have stashed their beloved animals at rented farms in Hebei, the province that surrounds the capital, while those of modest means have come up with creative ways to evade the dog catchers, some of whom have admitted operating under quotas that require them to bring in 10 dogs each, the report says.
A 25-year-old designer who owns a large dog told the Times that, earlier this month, a squad of men swept through her neighborhood with nets and metal snares. She says since then she has been traumatized by the sight of a dozen unlicensed dogs, whimpering and bloodied, being thrown into a large metal cage on the back of a police truck.
“Every time there’s a knock at the door, my heart stops,” she said.
Another Beijing native, identified only as Wang, 26, has been hiding from the government since May. She has moved four times in the last three months to stay ahead of the law and keep her big, gentle female English sheepdog, Guoguo, safe, according to NBC News.
Wang now commutes an hour and a half to work every day to keep Guoguo away from the long arm of the Beijing law. Before the government started to enforce the law in May, it only took Wang half an hour to get to work.
The director of the Chaoyang District Office of Dog Management, using only his family name, Liu, responded to NBC News' request to clarify the rationale behind the law.
“We don’t know either," Liu said of the rationale behind the law. "We are here to carry out the job.” However, he added confidently that the ban would "never be lifted.”
Dog lovers will continue living on the outskirts of Beijing and walking their pets at absurd times. Wang walks Guoguo at midnight and 4:30 a.m.
“I’m moving to Canada next year,” she told NBC. “I’m very disappointed with Beijing’s recent policies.”