SHANGHAI - Dog owners in the city may soon find themselves allowed to raise only one dog at home, according to the city's proposed pet law now being reviewed at the local legislature.
The city's draft legislation on dog management makes it explicit that each household can have only one dog, given Shanghai's high population density and limited living space, it said.
If their dogs have puppies, dog owners should give them away to other eligible adopters or send them to government-approved adoption agencies by the time they are 3 months old, so as to abide by the one-dog policy, the draft regulation said.
The alternative, it said, is for owners to perform sterilization surgery on their dogs.
Shanghai is not the only Chinese city to come up with the one-dog rule. Earlier, cities including Guangzhou and Chengdu passed laws restricting one household to one dog only in designated control areas.
Regulators in Shanghai are also thinking of lowering the exorbitant cost of dog licenses and registration.
According to the draft, the threshold will be cut to about 300 yuan ($45), taking into account the cost of certification, planting an ID-chip in the dog for identification purposes and providing a rabies vaccine every year.
Currently, dog owners pay anywhere from 1,000 yuan to 2,000 yuan annually for their dogs' licenses and vaccination, depending on where the dogs are raised. The closer dog owners live to the city's center, the more they have to pay to keep a pet.
The current high licensing fee has been widely regarded as the primary reason why most people in Shanghai do not register their dogs.
Official figures showed there are about 800,000 pet dogs in the city but only about a quarter of them are registered and licensed.
According to statistics from the municipal public security bureau, there are about 100,000 dog attack incidents each year. In 2009, nearly 140,000 cases of dog-inflicted wounds were reported. Each year there are people dying from rabies after being attacked by unlicensed dogs, the bureau said.
The growing risks of dog attacks as well as rampant barking and waste littering, which affects the city's environment and sanitation, has sparked calls for stronger regulation by the government, the bureau added.
If passed, the new law would come into effect some time next year. Anyone found violating the rule would face fines up to 1,000 yuan.
Owners will also be told not to bury dead dogs themselves but to send them to government-approved treatment agencies.
However, the potential one-dog policy has caused quite a stir among local pet lovers who said the rule might not be feasible.
"If you can't find any adopters and the shelters are full, where would the puppies go?" said an old lady surnamed Huang, who has been raising a dog for six years.
"I think the government should improve public knowledge about how to raise a dog and how to prevent them from attacking people and littering instead of forcing us to raise one dog only," said another resident surnamed Wang.
"Even if the law gets passed, I doubt whether the government will be able to discover any violations if owners keep their dogs secretly," she added.