First Beijing dog purge in five years brings unprecedented rally
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2006:
BEIJING–Either “The Year of the Dog” ended in Beijing with
the first major dog purge in the city since March 2001, or with the
introduction of world-standard animal sheltering and adoption
practices, depending on whether one asks activists or officials.
Possibly a bit of both happened.
The few certainties are that the dog laws enforced in
November 2006 by the Beijing Public Security Bureau, Agriculture
Bureau, and Administration for Industry & Commerce were of dubious
value in ensuring public safety; that the crackdown was openly
motivated by concern for keeping the streets clean and safe before
the 2008 Olympics; and that the outcome may have been “killing the
dog to scare the monkey,” as animal advocates gathered on November
11 outside the Beijing Zoo in a globally reported protest.
Faced with the prospect of similar embarrassment by human
rights demonstrators as the Olympics approach, Beijing authorities
appeared to use the pro-dog rally to rehearse containment tactics.
The episode began, summarized China Daily, when the Public
Security Bureau announced in October that it would begin enforcing
bans introduced in 2003 on keeping dogs who are more than 14 inches
tall and keeping multiple dogs in nine designated parts of Beijing.
Keeping multiple dogs and dogs of any size is permitted in the more
distant Beijing suburbs and outside the city.
“On November 8, police made house calls in Beijing’s luxury
villa areas to check on illegal dog keeping,” China Daily said.
“They discovered six large unlicensed dogs. By November 13, the
canine inspection section of the municipal bureau of public security
had rounded up 500 stray, unlicensed, or abandoned dogs.”
That would be an ordinary week’s animal control intake in
many U.S. cities, but U.S. animal control departments typically
respond to complaints about specific dogs.
The Beijing Public Security Bureau struggled to convince
citizens, and the world, that impounded large dogs are not being
killed, as thousands of other dogs were in other parts of China,
both earlier in 2006, and in simultaneous purges in other cities,
driven by fear of rabies.
“We have received reports that pet dogs are being bludgeoned
to death in their owners’ homes and on the streets, as well as being
strangled, electrocuted, and even buried alive,” an Animals Asia
Foundation alert asserted on November 16.
The Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation on November 24
offered muzzling as an alternative to the large dog roundup–and
offered to distribute 50,000 free “humane muzzles” donated by animal
behavioral scientist Roger Mugford. “Pray that the authorities in
China recognise an initiative which will help both animals and people
alike,” said founder Jill Robinson.
As of the beginning of December, however, the Public
Security Bureau had not been discredited by photos of dead dogs, or
video of actual killing. A widely circulated photo of the hanging
pelts of captured stray dogs was actually taken on November 6, in
Suining, in southwest Sichuan province. Other photos of police
violence against dogs emerged on October 31 from Hangzhou, in
But there was no scarcity of evidence of rough handling in
Beijing, much of it likely to lead to dogs’ deaths, and were many
online allegations of killing.
“I came from Beijing, and I’m in the United Kingdom,” began
one of the most detailed pleas for international intervention. “My
name is Si Zhang. Here is what happens every day: police come to
houses that are reported to have big dogs. They don’t talk too much
and they soon take away the dogs. If the dogs resist, the police
kill them in front of their owners. Even if the dogs are not killed
in front of their owners, lots of them will still be killed
somewhere else,” Si Zhang said, “because they are illegal and have
nowhere else to go.
“Many dogs have already been killed,” Si Zhang continued.
“They got extremely terrified in the small camp where innumerable
illegal dogs were kept all together, so they fought with each other
and barked all day. When this happened, they were just thrown into
a fire and burnt to die.
“I have a Golden retriever at home in Beijing,” Si Zhang
said. “I had to ask my parents to send him away to a far away
countryside place, because I don’t want him to get killed just
because he is big. Not everybody is as lucky as I am to be able to
send their dogs to somewhere safe,” Si Zhang finished. “What they
can do is just pray for their dogs, wishing nobody will knock on
their door the next morning.”
Police defend actions
Beijing Public Security Management Bureau deputy director Bao
Suixian at a November 14 press conference sought to strike a balance
among the interests of dog-keepers and other citizens.
“People have the right to have dogs, but people who don’t
have dogs also have rights,” Bao Suixian said. “People are worried
about dogs attacking and injuring them,” with reason, as more than
70,000 dog bites were reported in Beijing during the first 10 months
of 2006, up 18% from 2005.
Human rabies cases, nationally, were up 30% in September,
when 318 people died. The national total for 2006 topped 2,250,
threatening to exceed the 2004 total of 2,651. While most of the
rabies cases occurred in the southern and coastal regions where dogs
are often raised for meat, and no cases have originated in Beijing
in many years, 10 victims were flown to Beijing for palliative care.
Bites reportedly typically occurred in crowded elevators and
on the narrow stairways of the tenement apartment blocks that house
most Beijing residents, where neither humans nor dogs can escape
“Bao also denied that some dog shelters killed dogs that have
been collected from the streets or previous owners,” wrote China
Daily reporter Xie Chuanjiao.
“We have set up special homes to house stray dogs and
unlawfully large and aggressive dogs, fearing they might threaten
public security,” Bao said. “But we have never heard of them being
slaughtered. Dogs are man’s best friend. We still treat them like
friends after taking them in.”
“The official said the government does not condone the
slaughter of dogs, unless they have rabies,” Xie Chuanjiao
continued–and the next day went looking for the shelters.
“Beijing and neighbouring Hebei Province are establishing
more homes for the increasing number of stray and illegal dogs,” the
Security Bureau told Xie Chuanjiao.
“One of these centers is the Beijing Canine Shelter and
Inspection Centre located in Qiliqu Town, Changping District, in
the north of the city,” Xie Chuanjiao reported, appearing to
describe the facility at which the Beijing Association for Small
Animal Protection has operated a grooming and adoption program since
“To date, the center has received more than 500 dogs,” Xie
“With four buildings for large dogs, eight rows of kennels
for small dogs, a quarantine zone, an isolation zone and an
adoption zone, the center is capable of holding more than 1,000
dogs,” canine administration bureau chief Huang Zhimin told Xie
“The centre also has a hospital and a dog cafeteria,” Xie
Chuanjiao recounted, “while professional pet attendants and training
experts ensure the dogs are treated well.”
Xie Chuanjiao went on to give contact information for
“In Zhuozhou, Hebei Province,” Xie Chuanjiao added, citing
the Xinhua News Agency, “the local government yesterday allocated
one million yuan ($125,000 U.S.) to set up four major dog fostering
stations. A local official said they would shelter illegal dogs sent
to the area from Beijing. The official said local vets would provide
professional care, and a local military dog training base would
contribute to scientific and rational management of the stations.”
Responded Irene Zhang of Animal Rescue Beijing, “Those dogs
used to have a family with love. Now they are forced to leave their
owners and stay in a strange, cold place. How could that make them
happy and healthy? The purebreds might be sold,” Zhang speculated,
“or be used as breeders. The mixed breeds have no value for the
government people. Maybe some lucky ones would be saved for
reporters to take photos. Please note,” Zhang added, “that Hebei
province is notorious for the fur and dog meat business.”
New York Times correspondent Jim Yardley on November 14
described the efforts of Animal Rescue Beijing founder Wu Tianyu to
keep dogs who were at risk of being seized at a “safe house” until
they could be spirited out of the city. Residents were given 10
days’ warning to relocate large dogs, but for many, that was not
“Anxiety and outrage quickly spread among dog owners,” wrote
Yardley. “Several reported that police were already apprehending
large dogs in apartment compounds and had even entered individual
apartments to seize some dogs,” reported by neighbors responding to
published offers of rewards for identifying keepers of illegal dogs.
“Web sites posted photographs of dogs crammed into holding
pens at dingy city pounds,” Yardley continued, describing “a woman
who owns several dogs and asked not to be identified for fear the
police would try to seize her pets. She is building a kennel in her
uncle’s village in nearby Hebei province to ensure that her dogs and
others are not seized.”
Even if large dogs would be safe in Hebei, and if everything
Xie Chuanjiao reported was authentic, Beijing officials were up
against skepticism resulting from decades of hostility toward dogs,
propagandizing in response to public discontent, and a continuing
tendency to repress dissidents.
“Huang Yong, a 30-year-old government employee, was
detained while distributing T-shirts bearing slogans such as ‘Down
with dog-raising restrictions’ to demonstrators outside the Beijing
Zoo, according to friends,” reported Jane Cai of the South China
Morning Post on November 21.
“At least 500 dog lovers joined the November 11 protest
outside the zoo,” Cai continued.
“It has been 10 days since the detention,” one of Huang’s
friends told Cai. “Police caught and released a dozen people that
day. But my friend has not been released yet.”
Summarized Cai, “The friend said she had been told Mr. Huang
had been detained for disturbing public order and causing a riot,
and faced up to 37 days in custody. The friend said police kept
asking her who was the ‘plotter,’ and did not believe the protest
occurred spontaneously as a result of conversations in Internet chat
rooms. Police also warned her not to talk to the media.”
Beijing Human & Animal Environmental Education Center founder
Zhang Luping told Associated Press that police closed her web site,
www.ani8.com, for allegedly “leaking state secrets.”
“Friends with the Beijing Public Security Bureau told me they
wanted to punish the protest leaders,” Zhang Luping told Cai, “who
made the city lose face in international society while the 2008
Olympics host city is under the spotlight.”
Reported Charles Hutzler of Associated Press, “Organizers of
the protest said they had applied for a permit, but had been
refused. Though the demonstration was largely peaceful, anti-riot
squads in helmets and dark uniforms were dispatched, plainclothes
police milled through the crowds, and large numbers of uniformed
police sat in trucks down the street. Police tried to prevent
reporters from taking pictures and warned protesters that they could
suffer serious consequences for their actions.”
Elaborated China Times, “After several protestors got on the
short wall protecting the trees to chant slogans, the police began
to take action. ETTV reporter Lu Bingnong was filming with a small
hand-held videocamera. He was ‘invited’ to go into the zoo police
station, where he was interrogated in a small room. He was asked to
provide identification. He took out this Taiwan identity card and
his reporter’s card. The police were going to confiscate them, but
he protested and got to keep them. The videotape was removed from
his camera, and then he was permitted to leave, with the camera.
Three local Beijing reporters were arrested. One of them threw a
chair inside the police station.”
“There will be more protests like this,” software programmer
Xu Chun, 25, told Calum MacLeod of USA Today. “We want the leaders
to know we are not happy, and that they must revise these
“People are saying that if they have to, they will fight
back,” Wu Tianyu told Yardley. “I told the young people that they
should not fight back. It is the order of the government. If you
fight back, it will hurt the dogs in the long run.”
Observed Washington Post Foreign Service correspondent
Maureen Fan, “The face-off has exposed fault lines between older
bureaucrats with a mandate to keep public order, and a growing
middle class that no longer accepts the traditional Chinese view of
dogs as dishonorable or corrupt.
“Even before the protest, sources said, officers from the
Internet unit of the police began visiting operators of pet-related
Web sites. Several officers showed up at the offices of
Chinapet.com, which runs dozens of chat rooms, and ordered that
posts containing the words ‘protest’ or ‘gathering’ be deleted,” Fan
“They wanted to delete messages calling on people to be
together and take to the streets to oppose the big dog ban. We could
do nothing but obey,” programer Zhou Hongsheng told Fan. “Normally,
pets are not controversial,” Zhou said.
While Internet use to organize protest was discouraged, more
than 1,400 Beijing residents took part in an online forum about
proper dog care hosted by the state-controlled Beijing News,
featuring 11 dog experts and public officials. Excerpts from the
discussion later appeared in the Beijing News print edition.
Elsewhere in China
A similar crisis over enforcement of a ban on large dogs in
Hefei brought a pledge from the city zoo to house the displaced dogs.
“Zoo director Jiang said there is more than 60 square metres of land
at the zoo available for the dogs,” China Daily reported on November
11. “The zoo will provide staff to specifically look after the dogs,
free of charge to their former owners. The only thing the owners are
required to do is visit their old best friend regularly, bringing
Shenzhen, meanwhile, on November 22 dropped German
shepherds from a list of 28 forbidden breeds. Still on the list are
Newfoundlands and Tibetan mastiffs. Shenzhen published the list on
September 18, after abolishing the municipal “pet ownership fee,”
which had been the equivalent of $625 U.S., and cutting the annual
licensing free from about $250 to approximately $37.50.
With as many as 150 million dogs now, more than 90% of whom
are pets, China has just over twice as many dogs as the U.S., the
runner-up. The explosive growth of pet-keeping has stimulated
parallel growth in the number of veterinary practices, some of them
haphazardly operated and suspected of dispensing ineffective and
potentially dangerous homebrewed vaccines. A recent official
assertion that about 17% of vaccinated dogs remain susceptible to
rabies may hint at the extent of the problem.
Shanghai Daily reporters Yang Lifei and Zou Qi on November 20
outlined regulations taking effect on January 1, 2007 which require
that veterinary clinics must be more than 100 square meters in size,
“cannot be near hospitals, schools, restaurants or other crowded
venues,” and “must be equipped to handle disinfections, examinations
and laboratory tests. In addition,” Yang and Zou wrote, “each
clinic must have at least two registered veterinary surgeons on
staff,” and must be certified in animal medical care and zoonotic
“Currently, there are 72 legal pet hospitals or clinics in
Shanghai, but industry officials say there are far more unregistered
clinics doing business in the city,” Yang and Zou said.
Cat proliferation has received much less attention in China
than the growing numbers of dogs. However, reported Chinese
Companion Animal Protection Network founder Jia Meng, via the Asian
Animal Protection Network on November 20, the Hangzhou organization
CatsZone recently successfully introduced neuter/return in response
to complaints about free-roaming cats from “a residential community
with the name of WuLing Garden Apartments.”
CatsZone representatives convened a public meeting to explain
neuter/return that was heavily covered by local news media, Jia Meng
said. Seventy-three citizens signed a letter asking that
neuter/return be made the official city policy.