Dog days in Beijing as more get bitten by the pet bug

By Bryan Virasami and Lin Qi (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-03 06:41

A growing number of Beijing residents are opening up their homes to four-legged tenants - during the first six months this year, about 50,000 households registered dogs for the first time.

It is an increase over similar periods in previous years, the Beijing News reported yesterday, quoting the Beijing municipal public security bureau (PSB), but gave no comparative figure.

If the trend continues, it means one out of seven pet dogs in the city will be registered this year. According to official figures, the total number of registered dogs in the city stood at 659,000.

PSB officials could not be reached yesterday but veterinarians and pet advocates said they were not surprised that more people are embracing dogs. They are also pleased that more people seem to be following the law by registering their pets.

"The city has witnessed increases in the number of pet dogs over the past few years. It is a natural outcome as people's standard of living keeps improving," said Zhao Xu of the Bejing Association of Small Animal Protection, an animal advocacy organization.

Mary Peng of the International Center for Veterinary Services, a private animal hospital in Chaoyang District, said the number of patients has being growing "all the time".

She said she expects pet ownership to become even more popular.

"My honest response is that's just the tip of the iceberg," Peng said. "You're going to see more and more dogs and cats. People love animals as they are such a joy to have in our lives. Chinese people are no different than people anywhere else in the world."

Peng said there are several general reasons for the worldwide increase in dog ownership; and a few specific ones in Beijing.

"A lot of people are postponing childbirth and also a lot of young people are considering whether to have children," she said. "For many people, their pet is their child."

For older people, man's best friend is the perfect companion once the children grow up and leave the house, she said.

As dogs become more popular, pet experts stress that first-time dog owners should carefully consider whether to bring a pet home. And if they decide to get a dog, they should adopt one from a shelter instead of buying one.

Pet advocates say that many people buy pets for the wrong reasons, either as a birthday or festival gift, only to realize in hindsight that caring for the pet takes patience they don't possess.

Dogs in Beijing are required to be registered with the local office of the PSB. The fee is 1,000 yuan ($130) with steep discounts outside downtown Beijing and further discounts if the dog is neutered or desexed.

Meanwhile, people seem to be open to more breeds after size restrictions were announced last year. Big dogs of mild character such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Huskys are at the top of the list, said Zhao.

"Because of the tight restrictions on raising big dogs, many people have to shift to smaller ones," Zhao said. "The most common are Pekingese, Chihuahua and Pomeranian."

(China Daily 07/03/2007 page1)

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