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06/28/2013

It is a dog’s life in Beijing: officials confiscate big breeds, ship them away

Who out there thinks that Labradors, golden retrievers or dalmatians are vicious? Very
few dog-owners, and non dog-owners, would say yes to that.

But authorities in Beijing believe that is the case as they start to confiscate “large” dogs in parts of the city. Authorities banned big dogs from living in the city in 2003 but the ban wasn’t really enforced. Now, big dogs – over 14 inches tall -- are being confiscated after a rabies outbreak in the city last that reportedly killed 13 people.

Chinese authorities say big dogs are incompatible with big city living.

Às many as 41 dogs fall under that classification. They are being called public enemy
number 1 and police have been raiding homes at night, wrenching dogs from their owners’ arms. There are conflicting reports about what officials are doing with dogs: some say they are being handed over to dog meat sellers, others say they are being shipped to farms on the outskirts of the city.

“We wish the police could find a more humane way to deal with this issue,” said a spokesperson from Animals Asia. The agency is asking the government to instead promote responsible ownership.

Mary Peng, chief executive of the International Centre for Veterinary Sciences`, a
pet hospital in Beijing, told the New York Times that people are in a state of
panic. “My phone has not stopped ringing.”

Meanwhile, as Beijing purges the city of big dogs, owners are hiding them, some even taking them for walks in the middle of the night. Those who can afford it are housing them at farms and kennels outside the city, not knowing if they will see them again.

Other dog lovers are more vocal. Celebrities have voiced their concerns on Chinese social media platforms while groups have started a petition to change the regulations. 

Dog-owners have also been posting stories of encounters with the police. One video
posted last week shows an officers bundling a small white dog into a van even
as the owner claimed that he had left the license home.

Will it save those big dogs? Time will tell.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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