Animal-loving netizens are rallying for the rights of man’s best friend after a handful of cities across China began rolling out stricter rules on dog ownership, some including a list of banned breeds that legally can’t be registered as pets.
The list of 22 banned breeds in cities such as Chengdu now includes the “Chinese rural dog,” a blanket term for domestically bred, often mixed-breed dogs commonly found around China, and one that is often used interchangeably with “stray dog.” The irony of a Chinese-bred dog being listed among the banned species in China is spurring some of the biggest outcry online.
One user took to Weibo to share her stance:
“My dog is a Chinese rural dog, as are the cats that I raised before. All of them have been stray cats and dogs that I adopted. I take them to get vaccinated, and when I take them for a walk, they wear a leash to keep from running away. I treat them with care, and they guard me with companionship. Whoever touches them, I will protect them with my life.”
The trending posts often go hand in hand with viral photos and footage of chengguans — much-maligned “urban management” teams responsible for “cleaning up” the streets — supposedly drowning, beating, and otherwise abusing these “rural dogs” that often constitute the stray population. These images accompany posts tagged with #中华田园犬# (“Chinese rural dog”) and #万人请辞抗议杭州打狗# (“10,000 people protesting Hangzhou’s beating of dogs”). Some users even allege that chengguans are being offered incentives to round up stray dogs, alive or dead.
Users have been quick to condemn the city for being far from the “heaven on Earth” that it bills itself to be (Hangzhou is traditionally referred to in China as one of the two “Heavens on Earth,” along with nearby Suzhou).
In a now viral WeChat post produced under the pen name “一犬一话” and entitled “Hangzhou is my home, I just want to live,” the author summarizes some of the bureaucratic obstacles through the imagined eyes of a stray dog. “I heard that Hangzhou has recently stepped up the management of raising stray dogs,” it reads. “I am also very happy, I hope that after such management, everyone will like us more.”
Almost immediately, the dog encounters problems however. “I’m not over 25cm tall, I’m not a large dog that is banned in the city. Why can’t I have a ‘legitimate ID card’? The staff said that because I am a Chinese rural dog…”
The WeChat post had been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and received a huge number of comments and likes by Friday evening; on Saturday, it appeared to have been taken down.
One commenter observed, “I took my daughter and my dog to Lin’an, Anji, and Anhui for National Day, and marveled at the tolerance of dogs at scenic spots. Everywhere you go, dogs aren’t turned away, but rather staff in some places will greet dogs in a friendly way. But the recent situation in Hangzhou is chilling…if this is really Hangzhou, I will never go again. A city that cannot protect even the smallest lives must not be worth visiting.”
Animal rights in China have gained notoriety thanks to publicized incidents of abuse and events such as Yulin’s infamous Lychee and Dog Meat Festival. However, increased awareness (and, coincidentally, a larger population of pet owners) has led to more vocalized opposition of these practices from within China in recent years.
The extent of abuse in Hangzhou, Chengdu and other cities supposedly implementing new regulations on dog ownership remains unclear. But the outrage over such alleged actions on social media is very clear, and widespread.