China's top legislature adopted the amendment to the law on animal epidemic prevention on Thursday, which asks all animal owners to comply with compulsory vaccination policies, especially owners of poultry and livestock bred in rural backyards, and pets in urban houses.
The revised law, approved by lawmakers attending the 29th session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), which was to be effective on January 1, 2008, was aimed at preventing future animal epidemics and lower their social and economic impact.
"With an increasing demand for meat, eggs and milk products, the country's animal husbandry sector continues to expand and new animal diseases keep emerging," said an official with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The revised law sets up a compulsory animal vaccination system, requiring immunization of animals against diseases harmful to people's health and husbandry industry.
It made clear that animals stated in the law "include pets" and all stipulations on animal immunization in the law were "fit for pets".
Lawmakers during the session this week proposed that the law should include more detailed and systematic stipulations on pets as pets, especially dogs, have caused "a string of social problems", such as dogs excrement, loud barking, growing number of abandoned and stray dogs, and more attacks on human beings by dogs.
Statistics show Beijing alone sees more than 703,800 dogs have been registered, and the total number of dogs including those unregistered might be bigger.
More than 90,000 people in Beijing were injured by cats and dogs in the first six months of this year, up almost 34 percent from the same period last year, according to statistics.
Rabies has stayed atop the list of fatal infectious diseases in China for more than a year, claiming 1,551 lives in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Health.
Local governments above the county level would have to set up a surveillance network to monitor animal diseases, according to the revised law, which will replace the current Animal Epidemic Prevention Law that came into effect on January 1, 1998.
Veterinary departments at the central and provincial levels are obligated to issue early warnings against possible outbreaks based on thorough epidemiological study, it says.
The law also demands a prompt and transparent reporting system, saying all government agencies, businesses and individuals must immediately report outbreaks of animal diseases to veterinary departments.
Officials and government employees, who fail to take prompt preventative measures, delay reporting or try to cover up outbreaks of animal diseases should be disciplined, according to the law.
Animal owners will face a fine less than 1,000 yuan (US$132) for violation of vaccination rules or poor disinfection measures, a fine less than 3,000 yuan (US$395) for mishandling ill animals, their excrement and dead bodies, and a fine no more than five times the total value of animals for transporting or storing infected animals.
Business owners will face a fine between 1,000 yuan (US$132)and 10,000 yuan (US$1,316) for running animal breeding farms or slaughtering houses without government licenses, the law says.
It also stipulates that organizers of shows or games with animals that have not received vaccination will be fined up to 3,000 yuan (US$395).
Veterinary institutions that cause a spread of animal disease will be fined between 10,000 and 50,000 yuan (US$6,579) or revoked of business license if the case was serious, it says.
The Chinese government announced earlier that it would increase investment in the prevention and control of animal epidemics and set up a new national prevention system on animal diseases by 2008.
To ensure transparency, the revised law requires the State Council's veterinary department to report promptly outbreaks of animal diseases to relevant army organizations.
Information about serious outbreaks should also be reported quickly to relevant international organizations and trade partners, the law says.
As the world's largest producer of poultry, livestock and aquatic products, China has much to lose from outbreaks of animal diseases. It is estimated that animal diseases cost China 40 billion yuan annually.
China has reported a total of 25 human cases of bird flu since 2003, which have resulted in 16 deaths.
In July, about 47,000 pigs were infected by blue-ear pig disease, down 51.5 percent from the previous month, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
By August 22, China had administered 314 million milliliters of vaccine to immunize more than 100 million pigs. By then, the disease had infected 257,000 pigs in 26 Chinese provinces, of which 68,000 died and 175,000 were destroyed.
The vaccinated pigs will no longer be infected by the highly pathogenic disease, according to the ministry.
Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture show that China vaccinated six billion poultry and 850 million livestock in the first half of 2006.
The country has also set up a monitoring network, covering 49,000 large and 80,000 individual poultry farms, 900 pig farms and 2,000 markets trading animal products.