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Beijing loosens leash on pet dogs
( 2003-07-18 09:05) (China Daily)

Beijing's dog lovers could have restrictions on their pets relaxed and registration fees lowered under changes debated yesterday at the Beijing Municipal People's Congress (BMPC).

But the issue divided opinion at the congress - the capital's top legislature - during the revised regulation's first hearing.

"As a focus of disputes in society, restrictions on dog ownership and lighting firecrackers are our two major difficulties," Yu Junbo, chairman of the BMPC Standing Committee, said yesterday.

Zheng Gang, director of the Internal and Judicial Committee under the BMPC, supports the new draft of the Beijing Municipal Regulation on Dogs from the local government, which is to replace the current Beijing Municipal Regulation on Dog Ownership, introduced in 1995.

The current regulation talks of "strictly" limiting dog ownership and controlling the number of dogs in the city.

The new draft focuses instead on "strict management and combining restrictions with management."

Residents who own pet dogs in urban Beijing are mostly middle and low-income earners, including laid-off workers and single elderly people, according to Ma Zhenchuan, director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security, which is in charge of managing dogs.

Dog ownership is no longer confined to the rich, as it was in the 1990s, Ma said.

Although the previous, restrictive wording has been removed from the planned new regulation, every household in Beijing is still only permitted to own one dog, and cannot have violent or big dogs.

However, Shen Mengpei, a member of the BMPC Standing Committee, disagrees with the softer approach taken in the draft.

"I hope the regulation will respect the opinion of the majority of Beijing residents - that is, restrict the expanding number of dogs in Beijing," he said.

According to statistics provided by Ma, there are some 1.4 million dogs in Beijing, both registered and unregistered.

"Only one-tenth of people have dogs, but their pets' barking and dung affect nine-tenths of people," said Wang Ping, a Beijing resident who supports restricting the number of dogs in the city.

According to the Ministry of Health, rabies killed more people than any other infectious disease across the country in the first half of this year.

The draft also proposes reducing registration fees for dogs from 5,000 yuan (US$604) in the first year and 2,000 yuan (US$242) per year thereafter to 2,000 yuan (US$242) and 1,000 yuan (US$121) respectively.

Zheng Gang agrees with the proposal to cut fees, but argues they should be reduced further still - to 1,000 yuan (US$121) and 500 yuan (US$60) respectively.

"Cheaper dog registration will encourage more residents to keep their pets legally instead of ignoring the regulation," Zheng said.

Of the million-plus dogs in Beijing, only one-tenth were registered, said public security chief Ma.

Surveys have found that owners fail to register their dogs because of the high fees involved.

But Zhang Wenqi, a member of the BMPC Standing Committee, remains unconvinced that cheaper registration will help.

"I am afraid those who try to escape the charges will continue to do so, even if the fees are lowered."

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