We consider our pets members of the family. They live in our homes, sometimes sleep in our beds, accompany us to work or to a café. Especially during the pandemic, the demand for dogs in the Czech Republic was extremely high. According to the Czech Statistical Office, in 2015, 28 percent of people in the Czech Republic had a dog, and 19 percent had a cat. PEDIAF statistics from 2019 show that 2 million dogs and 1.5 million cats live in our country. There are 83,297 dogs living in Prague alone, mostly crossbreeds. It can be assumed that during the pandemic these numbers increased even more. However, not every country has such a friendly relationship with dogs. China, for example, has plenty of rules affecting life with pets. Some of them are really shocking (the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to them as well). Which one will surprise you the most?
The People's Republic of China has a population of more than 1.4 billion. This number of citizens makes it the most populous country in the world. However, this primacy comes with a number of regulations in pet-keeping, although the government does not impose any restrictions on the ownership of dogs. Some cities, especially large ones, try to prevent conflicts that can arise when large, untrained dogs collide with humans through their own local regulations. Lately, China has seen an increase in households that own a dog. While in 2013 there were about 55 million dogs in Chinese households, in 2017 the number of these four-legged friends has climbed over 84 million. Moreover, the Chinese government expects enormous interest in pets in the coming years. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly common in China for dogs to attack humans. This creates a large number of disputes with their owners.
Large cities and dog ownership restrictions
When the Chinese capital issued the "Beijing Dog Management Regulations" in 2003, limiting the maximum height of a pet dog to 23 cm, many larger breed owners were forced to put their four-legged friends to sleep, otherwise they would have been confiscated. And there’s much more than just that. In Beijing, dogs are also excluded from shopping malls, restaurants or public transport. Even in some other Chinese cities, it is usually forbidden to walk a dog without a leash or keep large dog breeds. If the residents violate these prohibitions, they can get blacklisted and later they will be completely banned from keeping dogs.
The city of Tianjin followed in Beijing's footsteps. In 2005, the fourth largest Chinese city restricted keeping dogs over 45 cm. Beijing has issued a list in which you will find specific breeds of dogs that are banned in the city. The list forbids, for example, the Bernese mountain dog, which is one of the most popular dogs in the Czech Republic, mainly due to its kind nature. On the list, you’ll also find, for example, the collie, the German shepherd, the Dalmatian or the Rottweiler. The only exception to this decree are guide dogs for the handicapped. Popular dog breeds in China therefore include poodles, bichons and chihuahuas.
Regulations and fines
The regulations in Hangzhou city are considered very strict. Owners can only walk their small dogs between 7 PM and 7 AM. Large dogs aren’t allowed to go outside at all. Owners that do not comply may face a fine of up to CNY 1,000, which is approximately CZK 3,200. Qin Xiaona, director of the Chinese Association for the Protection of Animals, commented on these controversial laws, calling them inhumane.
Complications for the blind
Blind people using seeing-eye dogs face problems in China – especially in Beijing. Because of this, only a small number of handicapped people own a guide dog here. When travelling by public transport on a daily basis, they must prove their identity with a special card so that they can be admitted to the bus or metro with their guide dog. Although there are no restrictions on the transport of service dogs, unclear information leads to guide dogs often being excluded from the bus. Similar situations occur when blind people with a guide dog want to eat in a restaurant or go shopping in the mall. They’re only allowed to do so, if they prove their identity with a card and make a reservation at least one hour before the planned visit. Often the owner has to reassure everyone around of the dog’s perfect training and eliminate the possibility that the service dog could threaten someone. The key to loosening and phasing out the measures is excellent dog training. People need to gain trust and stop being afraid.
Dog meat consumption
As we all know, in some Asian countries dogs are not only pets, but a part of the menu as well. China – together with Vietnam and South Korea – is on the list of countries where the slaughtering of dogs, sale and consumption of dog meat has been legal for many generations. Over time, the Chinese have built a strong bond with dogs and eat dog meat less and less. Dog meat consumers are mainly minorities living in southern China in the Guangdong and Guangxi areas. Another group of dog meat consumers are traditional Chinese medicine enthusiasts, since they believe that it is very healthy.
The Chinese government is actively involved in the fight against dog consumption and prepares restrictive laws. The first city to pass laws banning the consumption of dogs and cats was Shenzen. In case of violation of this restriction, both restaurant owners and consumers of this meat will be punished by a heavy fine. This big step did not go unnoticed – soon the city of Zhuhai joined the ban as well.
The Lychee and Dog Meat Festival
One of the reasons why China is considered to be an avid dog meat consumer is the Yulin dog meat festival. The public became aware of it through the media and animal rights groups, joined by a number of activists or celebrities, all of them alerting to the stealing and cruel slaughtering of dogs for the festival, as well as the poor conditions they’re kept in. Although the organizers deny any inhumane treatment of the dogs, the reality is some people really do believe that torturing an animal to death is the best way to pretreat its meat before consumption. The festival is not even a thousand-year-old tradition – its grand opening took place on the 21st of July in 2009. Since then it is held every year at the same time and runs for 10 days. During this festival, the guests consume thousands of dogs.
Impacts of the pandemic
Many people, especially from the younger generation, believe that consuming dog meat is wrong and they’re explicitly against it. However, it should be noted that the efforts to prevent dog slaughtering on the markets have been significantly accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. In the past year, the city of Yulin issued a statement prohibiting the consumption of dog meat on the markets in order to fight against the spread of COVID-19, and even though the dog meat festival was held as usual, the number of participants was allegedly much smaller than before.
The ticking time bomb
Still, the moral aspect is not the only problem associated with dog meat consumption – the easy transmission of zoonotic viruses is a problem more topical than ever. Our planet hosts a countless number of viruses, highly adaptable for transmission between different species. However, the real problem begins with transmission to humans. Unlike western markets, where only meat is sold, Chinese markets offer both wild and domestic live animals that the seller slaughters right in front of you. Cages overstuffed with live animals mix with meat and blood here – and together with them, all of the viruses mix as well. All of these aspects make the marketplace a time bomb that explodes with human-to-human transmission.
The sad fate of dogs in the pandemic
The COVID pandemic only made the whole dog situation worse. If a dog’s owner contracted the coronavirus, he would have to quarantine. However, unlike us, the Chinese don’t spend the quarantine in the safety of their homes, but in special facilities designed for this purpose, where pets are not allowed. At the same time, their apartment has to be sanitized, therefore pet owners have to get rid of their animals to allow that. And they dispose of them in various ways, including tossing them out of the window. In some cases, this gruesome act was carried out by the representatives of the Apartment owners association, sent to sanitize the apartment.
As the saying goes, "To each their own", and in the case of China, this goes double. Nevertheless, even though each country has its own customs and traditions, we simply can’t bend the rules when it comes to the abuse of living beings. Luckily, given the number of forthcoming regulations, I believe that animal rights activists together with dog and cat lovers will soon be able to rest a little easier...