Opinion / Zhu Ping

Little case of stray dog exposes big loophole in law

By Zhu Ping (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-16 09:40

When it comes to dogs, dog-lovers and dog-haters fight like cats and dogs. But the recent case in Urumqi, capital city of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, is more than a storm in a teacup, for it shows how essential it is to promote the rule of law in a society in rapid transition.

On May 10, Wang Jian, father of a 3-year-old boy, severely beat up a stray dog because it was terrifying his son with its barking. After details of the incident were posted online, Wang became the target of netizens. Within two days, he received more than 2,000 intimidating text messages and 3,000 threatening phones calls from dog-lovers across the country. His wife and a colleague who happened to be at the scene also received such messages and calls.

This verbal violence escalated into physical violence on May 12, forcing Wang to apologize and promise to pay about 10,000 yuan as compensation to the dog in front of dozens of dog-lovers, some of whom were from as far as Guangzhou and Shanghai. Some protesters jumped on top of his car after Wang's father tried to argue with them, and let them go only after Wang bowed to them five times for thrashing the dog.

True, Wang should not have attacked the dog and deserves criticism for his merciless action. But the fact that dog-lovers have not expressed any sympathy for the little frightened boy or considered a man's action to protect his son in the right light also deserves criticism. Worse, by forcing Wang to bow to them, they held human dignity to ransom, which calls for severe condemnation.

Last week, the mother of a 2-year-old boy in Chengdu, Sichuan province, suffered serious injuries while trying to protect him from an unleashed hound. Going by dog-lovers' logic, shouldn't they have called her thousands of times to apologize?

The growing number of dog-lovers reflects social progress, because it shows more people are becoming aware of animal protection. But by harassing Wang's family and friends, the dog-lovers were barking up the wrong tree.

China has an estimated 40 million stray dogs and 10 million stray cats, and dog attacks on people have increased in recent years. How to deal with such a huge number of animals and the problems they cause is a question that has put urban management in a quandary.

China's animal protection law applies only to wild animals, not pets. As a result, people abandoning their pets don't have to worry about penalties. So before a comprehensive animal protection law is enacted, the authorities should pass regulations to ensure dog-lovers keep their pets for life.

Most developed countries have more than a century's history of animal protection, which evolved into a system from registration, reproduction, purchase and sale to management. Only by assigning pets with specific IDs and punishing those who abandon their pets can the authorities reduce the number of stray dog-related incidents.

Since the dog-lovers exposed their ignorance of law in the Urumqi case, Wang should have approached police rather than giving in to online bullying and physical harassment. Despite the absence of a specific law, the Supreme Court passed a regulation last October, saying Internet users or service providers causing harm to others by exposing people's privacy, including family address and other personal information, should be held accountable if the victims file a lawsuit.

This is not the first time that someone has been bullied online and his personal information abused. And as the regulation is not enough to protect such victims, the legislature should deal with the thorny question of how to stop online violence, which is an emerging social problem in China.

The Urumqi dog case is small, but hopefully it will prompt the authorities to take a big step toward complete rule of law.

The author is an editor with China Daily.


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