China's One Dog Policy

Beijing and Shanghai are confiscating pets amid confusing rules
By JoAnna Lou, June 2013
China has an infamous one child policy, but I was surprised to learn that certain Chinese cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, have a one dog policy. And it's not just the number of pets you live with.  Believe it or not, these cities have banned all dogs taller than 13.7 inches. That means I couldn't live with my pups in either of these areas!
For years pet lovers in Beijing and Shanghai have gotten away with their larger breeds, but over the last month the government has been cracking down. The Beijing Municipal Public Safety Security Bureau says that the increase in human deaths attributed to rabies is responsible for the sudden enforcement. They also believe that big dogs are incompatible with city living (they've obviously never lived with a Jack Russell Terrier!).   
Over the past few weeks, the police have been carrying out frightening raids on homes, confiscating even legally registered pups. Animal rights advocates say that many of the seized pets are likely to end up in the hands of dog meat traders.
Inconsistent rules have made the issue confusing and even more controversial. Despite the ban, the government had been licensing large breed dogs across the city and collecting the $160 registration fee for years.
To protect their dogs, pet lovers are walking their pups in the wee hours of the morning or limiting potty breaks to hidden apartment balconies. Those who can afford it have been boarding their dogs outside the city limits, but not everyone can afford to do that and it's certainly not a long term solution. Most people are hoping that the campaign will blow over.
China's rules may seem excessively random, but think about the breed bans against Pit Bulls that we have in the United States. The laws in Beijing and Shanghai come from the same problem--trying to solve a problem without treating the root cause.
Eliminating large breeds doesn't eliminate vicious dogs. And limiting people to one dog doesn't solve the rabies problem.  Responsible dog ownership--administering rabies vaccines, keeping dogs on leash, and encouraging people to train their pups--is where the real issue lies.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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