Time to make dog-raising regulations bite

Wan Lixin
Only when the consequences of non-compliance with local regulations (or laws) are driven home can we expect irresponsible dog owners to truly reform.
Wan Lixin

A couple of days ago, while taking a walk in a well sequestered lane in a park, I saw a young woman coming in the opposite direction, and became uneasy.

The woman had two dogs with her, one perched on her shoulder and another strutting ominously ahead.

Resigned to the inevitability of a close encounter, I assumed an air of nonchalance, in vain. Without warning, the strutting beast took a bite at one of my sleeves, then casually let it go and resumed its journey.

The woman was profuse in apologies, all the while trying to restrain the excited dog on her shoulder.

When you are in such a situation, there is precious little you can do.

If you take up the issue with the dog, it only makes you look stupid.

My experience is, the sooner you put the episode behind you, the better.

But not everyone is as lucky as I was.

Take for instance an 8-year-old girl having a walk near her home with her mother in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, last August. The peaceful walk turned nasty when she was attacked and then mauled by a ferocious Rottweiler.

The girl underwent a three-hour emergency operation and her condition became stabilized only after a week of intensive treatment. The mother also suffered extensive injuries while trying to stop the beast.

There is this English saying that “every dog is allowed to have its first bite,” but this was not the first bite. Among the dog’s earlier prey were the owner’s sister and her husband.

The girl’s family threatened a criminal suit against the owner, but due to the lack of legal clarity such a suit could easily have ended up in protracted legal complications.

Relevant regulations needed

Such complications inevitably “benefit” dog owners.

When reminded to restrain their dog, some owners would reply, in decidedly good humor, that their dogs are so tame and small that they never bite.

Hence the need for relevant regulations that truly bite.

In Shanghai, for instance, local dog-raising regulations came into effect in 2011, and amendments in 2016 provide, in detail, procedures ranging from responsible departments, registration and proper behavior to legal responsibilities.

The devil is in the details.

One management issue, many think, stems from the complications arising from the management of dog-raising being devolved to too many different government departments.

One of the outcomes of this are the inconvenience and confusion caused and the shifting of responsibility in the case of complaints.

There is also the issue of a lack of resources for effective enforcement.

For example, in the case of complaints, enforcement is expected only after obtaining evidence in the wake of an investigation.

A tricky issue is that when enforcement officers arrive at the scene, the situation is already over, making the collection of evidence difficult.

In a refined management scheme, if all dogs are properly registered, chipped and tracked, dubious dog-raising practices might be easily penalized in terms of deduction of points, fines, or detention of the dogs in question.

Particularly bad dog owners could face restrictions in accessing some public services. If they are prevented from traveling by air or by train, obtaining bank loans, or accessing telephones or mobile phones, they might think twice before knowingly breaking the rules.

Only when the consequences of non-compliance with local regulations (or laws) are driven home to everyone can we expect irresponsible dog owners to truly reform.

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