Putting irresponsible dog owners on a leash

A new campaign has been launched in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, to administer harsher penalties on undisciplined dog owners.

A new campaign has been launched in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, to administer harsher penalties on undisciplined dog owners. 

Dog owners walking their dogs unleashed, unlicensed or during the prohibited time period of 7am to 7pm will face fines of up to 5,000 yuan (US$720.8). And if an unleashed dog attacks someone, the owner’s license will be revoked and the dog will be confiscated by urban administration officers.

The new guidelines were introduced because of several recent incidents between dog owners and pedestrians. 

In September, a pregnant woman claimed on Weibo she had been attacked by a dog owner after her husband kicked away an unleashed French bulldog jumping on them. Two months later, in a different neighborhood, the owner of an unleashed dog was caught on a CCTV camera beating up a mother, who tried to protect her two children from being attacked by the animal.

Government statistics reveal that since 2016 they have received 18,228 complaints about dogs, 2,195 of them concerning attacks. In the past three years, there have been 356,000 outpatient recordings of injuries caused by dogs. 

The recorded number of official dog licenses is more than 33,000, while the amount of unlicensed is unknown.

The new guidelines have created panic among some pet owners and caused an increase in new registrations. 

At Xiacheng District’s office for free rabies vaccines, dozens of people were seen queuing outside the entrance to get their vaccination certificates. Such a certificate is required by law for every registration and should be renewed every half year. But most dog owners were there for registration rather than renewal. 

Shi Jia

A staffer gives an injection to a poodle at the Xiacheng District’s office for free dog rabies vaccines.

Lu Jia, who lives in a nearby community, took her 9-year-old poodle for a vaccination.

“The dog was my friend’s. It hadn’t been registered before. I’ve only raised it for two years,” Lu told Shanghai Daily. 

Another poodle-owning woman at the registration admitted she had been too busy to register her pet.

“In one afternoon alone, from 1pm to 5pm, we dealt with over 90 applications,” said a staffer at the district office. “While in the past, applications are usually between 300 and 400 in a month.”

The present dog regulation was first introduced in 1996 and has been amended three times in 22 years. The last amendment was made in 2004 when the registration fee was cut from 5,000 yuan to 1,000 yuan, and yearly renewal brought down from 1,000 yuan to 500 yuan in central urban areas.

Apart from restricting dog-walking hours, the new regulation has also put a limit on certain dogs that can be raised in central urban areas. All dogs exceeding a height of 45 centimeters or 60 centimeters in length are prohibited. While 33 breeds are considered dangerous and are only allowed in rural areas, including the Chinese Field Dog, a common breed to the country.

A lot of these regulations have been unwelcomed by dog owners. 

Shi Jia

The office has been busy with people applying for a vaccination certificate required for the dog license registration, ever since a new campaign was launched in Hangzhou to discipline irresponsible dog owners.

Ms Dong, who refused to disclose her full name, received a license for her Chinese Field Dog before the new rules were released. She thinks that the regulation is a one-size-fits-all and unfriendly to dog owners like her.

“The present time limit doesn’t work for most people who work from 9am to 5pm every day. And dog walking after 7pm or before 7am means that our dogs are unable to get enough sunshine,” said Dong, who also believes it is unreasonable to judge whether a dog is dangerous or not by its size. 

“Sometimes injuries are caused by smaller ones. You just need a more multifaceted standard for evaluating their risks.” 

There are those, however, who consider the stipulations fair and justified and are in favor of a stricter code.

Mr Wang, who also refused to disclose his full name, is a father of a 4-year-old girl. Last year a neighbor’s wolfdog seriously wounded his mother. 

“I think that anyone who has kids or has been bitten by a dog will stand by my side. Most dog owners in my community don’t take a leash when walking their dogs and some of them leave their dog poop uncollected,” Wang said.

Wang says he is not against anyone having a dog but thinks they should not be allowed to harass people. 

“If I see large-sized dogs when taking a residential elevator, I will let them go first,” said Wang. “You know they are just not suitable for apartment living. If you live a house then that’s your own thing.

“I think people’s rights should always be prioritized over animals.”

Ms Dong, who owns a Chinese Field Dog and has been volunteering at a local animal protection society, was more worried about animal abuse of unlicensed and stray dogs.

Yang Jianqiu, an officer from the urban administration bureau of Xiacheng District, stressed to Shanghai Daily that all their actions were law-abiding. 

“If we can seize a dog by our hands, we won’t use any nets or tongs. It is only when all measures have been exhausted we use an anesthetic blowgun,” said Yang. 

Xiacheng District has eight people dealing with dog-related issues, including license registration and law enforcement. They have been working overtime to handle over 1,000 new submitted applications.

The city’s urban administration commission revealed they had received 11,106 applications and dealt with over 1,900 incidents of misconduct and infraction in the four days leading up to November 19.

For further information on inappropriate law enforcement actions, please call (0571) 8505-0598 to report any.

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