GUANGZHOU: A brown dog, wagging its tail and barking in a husky voice, was tied up on the side of a busy street.
Beside the dog was a board, which read: "I am seeking my owner."
According to a veterinarian from a nearby pet hospital, the dog had been tied up in Guangzhou's Haizhu district for several days.
The doctor, who only revealed his surname Zhang, said a young woman brought the dog to his hospital one morning last week and never returned to take it back.
He predicted the number of dogs abandoned by their owners would soar in the following months when a new rule limiting families in Guangzhou to only one dog comes into effect July 1.
Those who break the rules will be fined up to 2,000 yuan ($292) and the extra dogs will be sent the city's homeless dogs center, according to sources with the municipal government.
Zhang said he had to find the dog's owner, or someone willing to adopt it, as too many sick pets have been dumped by their owners at the hospital in recent weeks.
"The hospital cannot take in more pets," he complained.
Currently the city is estimated to have more than 1,000 homeless dogs.
The move by the city aims to standardize the pet-raising industry in the southern metropolis and prevent rabies from spreading.
Most local residents welcome the new rules.
Chen Hongwei, a local white collar worker, said it would prevent too many dogs being raised in local housing estates.
And Wang Chaohai, who is raising two dogs at home, said he would give one of his dogs to a friend in the near future.
But a local animal protection association is worried about a big increase in homeless dogs in the city. The association has urged residents not to mistreat their pets after the new rules come into effect.
Guangzhou is the first city to introduce such rules in Guangdong province, but it is not the only place where dogs are being abandoned or killed.
On May 23, in response to increasing rabies cases, the government in Hanzhong, Shaanxi province, ordered all dogs in rabies-infected villages be killed. More than 34,000 dogs were killed as of June 11, according to the local government.
In late May, the government of Heihe in northeastern Heilongjiang province announced a ban on dogs in the city and four villages under its administration.
After May 23, all dogs would be killed and their owners fined up to 200 yuan.
China ranks second in the world for the incidence of rabies, after India, according to the Ministry of Health.
"Rabies broke out mainly because people didn't have their dogs vaccinated. Laws and regulations require people to vaccinate and register their dogs and send them for annual health checks but they are not effectively implemented, especially in rural areas," Sun Jiang, an expert from the Northwest University of Political Science and Law, was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday.
Sun agreed the government should kill infected dogs in a serious epidemic but it was not necessary to kill them all outright.
"Instead, the government should inform the public of the epidemic, vaccinate dogs and take humane measures to euthanize infected animals," he said.
Xinhua contributed to the story