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Shanghai mulls a One Dog Policy

Ananth Krishnan
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A dog lover plays with a Labrador retriever in Hefei. — PHOTO: Xinhua
A dog lover plays with a Labrador retriever in Hefei. — PHOTO: Xinhua

For decades, families in China have had to carefully adhere to the strict guidelines of the One Child Policy.

In the sprawling metropolis of Shanghai, this controversial and unpopular rule will soon be expanded to an unlikely member of Chinese households — their four-legged residents.

A draft “One Family, One Dog” law being reviewed by the city's legislature will now limit dog-owners to raising only one dog at home.

The draft cited Shanghai's high population density and limited living space as the reasons behind the proposal, the China Daily reported on Thursday.

With a growing middle-class, an increasing number of Chinese — particularly in more affluent cities, such as Shanghai — have become pet-owners, a once reviled bourgeois attribute in the days of Mao Zedong. China now has a booming pet industry with more than 5,000 pet products according to one report, and a generation of pet-owners who spare no expense in grooming and doting over their animals.

Unsurprisingly, the draft law has evoked strong criticism from Shanghai residents, who say the measures are impractical in a city with few dog shelters and resources for residents to turn to.

The draft law, in some sections, reads strangely similar to family planning regulations. Those breaking the law will be fined 1,000 yuan, or around Rs. 7,000 (far less than the average 20,000 yuan or Rs. 1.4 lakh families have to cough up for a second child). If dogs have puppies, owners will have to give them away to government-approved agencies.

“The rule is unfair and just doesn't make any sense,” Shanghai resident Jessie Zheng, who owns a 7 year-old Pomeranian, told The Hindu over telephone. “The only valid argument is the question of limited space in Shanghai. But if homes are big enough, there should be no issue. And most importantly, this is a question for families to decide, not the government.”

The only silver-lining for dog-owners like Ms. Zheng is the draft law brings down the high registration costs pet-owners currently face. In China, dogs have to be registered with the local government – a licence costs around 2,000 yuan (Rs. 14,000). As a result of the high costs, most dog-owners do not register their pets (and only walk them at night). According to official figures, Shanghai has 800,000 dogs, though only a quarter are registered.

The One Dog Policy, expected to take effect next year, ironically comes into force just as the city begins moving away from the One Child Policy. Faced with an ageing problem, the Shanghai government last year began encouraging couples who are both only-children to have a second child.

Ms. Zheng, an only child, said the One Dog Policy was unfair on humanitarian grounds too. She said, “Dogs need dog-friends too.”

Pet-owners spare no expense in grooming animals


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