HONG KONG – A major city in China is cracking down on pet dogs, banning dog walking during the day and prohibiting many larger breeds, after a publicized fight between a dog owner and a bystander.
The new rules in Hangzhou, in eastern China, were adopted after a dog owner was filmed pushing and shoving a woman who had kicked his dog. Before the fight, surveillance footage showed a young boy hiding behind her as the dog circled them without a leash.
The harsh restrictions on dogs — which hark back to anti-pet rules in earlier decades of communist rule and reflect continuing tensions over the place of dogs in society — officially took effect Thursday. In addition to a dog-walking ban from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., officials vowed to confiscate or kill dogs that were not properly licensed and to fine negligent owners. Dogs found outdoors outside of the curfew would also be "detained temporarily" and their owners could be fined.
The city has also banned 34 "vicious" large breeds, including Tibetan mastiffs, German shepherds, Great Danes, Chinese rural dogs and some mixed breeds. A volunteer involved in animal adoptions said this could make it difficult for dog owners who have already rescued large dogs.
Hangzhou's animal rights volunteers said they had seen dogs of all sizes being confiscated last week. Thousands have also commented on a post on Weibo, a popular social media platform, from the International Olympic Committee to debate Hangzhou's fitness to host the 2022 Asian Games in light of its treatment of dogs.
Videos of uniformed city law enforcers beating dogs with metal poles have circulated widely on Chinese social media and chat groups. But the authenticity of the videos could not be verified, as similar crackdowns have occurred in other cities in the past, and it is unclear when the videos were filmed. Before the recent wave of viral videos appeared, a district in Hangzhou released a statement asking the public not to believe "rumors" pertaining to dogs and its law enforcement, adding that they had reported the "malicious spreading" of rumors to the public security agency.
China has a history of using dogs to make aggressive political statements. Dogs were branded as political enemies in the 1940s for revealing the movements of communist fighters who resisted Japanese colonizers by nightfall. For decades, they were derided as bourgeois house pets that wasted scarce resources. Sometimes, dogs were openly beaten on streets as an act of aggression.