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(CN) Beijing Dogs

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  • Dr John Wedderburn
    It s raining cats and dogs...China Daily http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2001-08-01/23663.html (WU LI) 08/01/2001 When packaged dog food made its first
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2001
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      It's raining cats and dogs...China Daily
      (WU LI)

      When packaged dog food made its first appearance in Chinese
      supermarkets a decade ago, people weren't quite sure what it was, and some
      even bought it thinking it was canned dog meat.
      Today, an estimated 18 per cent of Beijing families keep pets. Almost
      half are dogs, numbering at least 160,000, according to Beijing Morning

      Why people keep pets

      "I go out for a walk with my Huahua at six o'clock every morning. Now
      I'm healthy enough that I won't be out of breath when climbing to the sixth
      storey," said Wang Qizhen, an aged woman whose children are abroad. The dog
      is her best friend now.

      A young woman named Yao Ying has a kitten as her good friend. "The
      moment I open the door after work, my Dami comes up immediately and
      scratches my legs. Then I play with her for a while, forgetting how tired I
      was when I first came."

      People keep pets mainly to ease loneliness, said Hou Yubo, a
      psychologist at Peking University.

      His opinion is backed up by Wang Qizhen who says that since she got
      Huahua, she hasn't missed her children that much and that she is cheerful
      most of the time.

      Yao Ying, on the other hand, says that she doesn't get scared watching
      a horror film, when she has Dami beside her.

      "The little creatures also have feelings. If you treat them well, they
      will be loyal to you," Hou said.

      He recalled that once his neighbour, an aged professor, fainted
      suddenly and his dog rushed out and barked for help . "They are very bright

      "As the pace of life in the city speeds up, human communication
      becomes superficial and tenuous. This is another reason for keeping pets,"
      said Xia Jianzhong, a sociology professor at People's University. "People
      feel it is much more relaxing and easier to communicate with animals," he

      Zhang Jiantao, a worker from the Beijing Aifen Pet Food Company
      chatting on a radio talk show said: "If you feel wronged, you can pour out
      your grievances to your pet, cuddle them, and even cry with them." Many
      people called the programme expressing the same feeling: "Absolutely, things
      are just like that."

      Scientists explained that people need to pour out their innermost
      feelings, which gives them relief from the pressures of life.

      "When talking about keeping pets in China, we should pay attention to
      the special social problem created by the increase in the number of old
      people and the fact that most contemporary Chinese families have only one
      child," said sociologist Xia Jianzhong. "Pets play an important role in such

      According to Xia, lonely old people get spiritual sustenance from
      caring for small pets. "And the only child may learn to care for others and
      have sympathy through having a pet to look after," he said.

      Responsibility for pets

      Pets benefit people in many ways, but they may also create problems.
      Pet owners should look after their animals' health, feed them, clean up
      after them and even groom them. Some owners lose interest and ignore their
      pets, leaving them to fend for themselves.

      "When you take on a pet, you should take good care of it for its whole
      life," said Zhao Xiaoqin, vice-secretary of the Beijing Small Animal
      Association (BSAA).

      BSAA, the association she works for has been carrying out activities
      to publicize the loving nature of pets.

      "When you truly understand how loving and giving they are, you won't
      ever be so cruel as to abandon them," a member of BSAA said at a pet fashion

      Zhao says that regulations should be devised to punish irresponsible

      A report drafted by the association about the current treatment of
      pets in the capital and some suggestions to rectify problems have been
      referred to the National People's Congress, the country's main legislative

      In addition to focusing on pets owners who abandon their animals, the
      report also suggests fining those who let their pets defecate and bark in
      public places.

      "Pet owners' lack of concern for the environment brings a lot of
      troubles for the city government," said Li Shaohua, CEO of a property
      management company.

      In fact, the trouble could be easily avoided if owners would pay
      attention to such things as taking a scoop and a plastic bag with them when
      they go out to pick up their pet's droppings and put them in garbage

      In order to restrict the number of pets being raised and keep the
      city's streets clean, the Beijing Public Security Bureau laid down rules in
      1993, requiring dog owners to pay 5,000 yuan (US$603) to register their pet
      in the first year and 2,000 yuan (US$242) every year thereafter.

      "The registration fee is too high," complained a dog owner. Forty per
      cent of dogs aren't registered, according to a survey by the Horizon
      Research Group.

      About three-quarters of the people polled were against the dog
      registration rule in a recent poll on the website www.beijing.gov.cn. The
      poll was arranged by the Beijing municipal government, which wants to hear
      people's views on the regulations currently in place in Beijing.

      Little pets, big market

      With the increasing numbers of pets, China's pet service industry has
      the potential to become a big money-maker.

      The survey revealed that a quarter of the dogs in the city are still
      fed in the traditional way, because the owners don't know about the new
      packaged pet foods.

      "Things will be different in 5 to 10 years. By that time China will
      have become the largest pet market in the world." said Wang Xiping, manager
      of the Bo'ai Pet Supplies Company in Beijing, who is quite optimistic
      although the pet market is quite small at present, compared to that in
      Western countries.

      Medical care for pets is also a big market. However, many people are
      dissatisfied with pet hospitals, since most of them are not registered and
      the fees are too high. The market is obviously ripe for regulation.

      Pet owners are waiting for the establishment of grooming parlours,
      training schools, pet-sitting services, and even funeral parlours for pets.

      "Where there is consumption, there is opportunity for business," said
      Lao Qing, whose pet photo studio is famous around Beijing.
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