Resistance or compromise: Chinese big dog owners seek more rights
Large dogs have become increasingly popular in China, but often government policy makes it hard to own a dog. Some campaigners want to see more rights for dog owners.
On July 10, 2020, Li Yu participated in the activity held by Chengdu Labrador Dog Club, a small social activity attended by more than 10 dog owners and their dogs in the Suburban Park of Chenghua District. The 26 year old dog owner have a Labrador, invited his friends to attend and explained the advantages of Labrador as a family companion dog to them enthusiastically.
But the event ended in less than two hours. “At that time, I was sharing with several other dog owners some interesting things that happened in the process of keeping dogs. The dogs were also running and playing on the grass nearby”, said Yu Li. The Suburban Park has a vast lawn, which is considered as a paradise for dogs. “I saw two police cars coming towards us. Five or six police officers with sticks and ropes came down from the car. They told us that big dogs couldn’t appear in the city. Then they started to catch the dogs, put them on ropes and drag them into the car.”
Yu Li and other dog owners pleaded with the police, begging them not to take their dogs, but did not seem to get the police’s sympathy. Watching the police car go away, they can only stand still. “At that time, we looked into each other’s eyes, there was sadness, there was anger, and a common emotion was helplessness,” he said.
“We don’t know how to save our dog. We know that compared with the powerful official force like the police, our appeal is insignificant.”
Just two weeks ago, the Chenghua District police station issued a notice saying that large dogs would no longer be allowed in all parts of the area, while the government’s definition of large dogs was based on height. According to the latest regulations of Chengdu municipal government, except for 34 kinds of dogs which are forbidden to be raised, all dogs over 35 cm in height can no longer be allowed to appear in the city. Once found, they will be confiscated forever.
This means that large dogs such as Labrador, golden retriever and husky, which are favored by Chinese dog owners and rated as “the best choice for dog owners” by people’s daily in 2019, will be isolated from the government’s restrictive policies.
These strict restrictions have forced some people who want to raise large dogs to change their minds, and have left owners who already have large dogs at a loss. The policy was announced at the same week, a couple with two Labradors had to open their doors to be inspected by patrols and watch them taken their dog away after being reported by neighbors.
“We resisted and argued with them, but they told me that any request that goes against the policy is meaningless,” said Lin Ye, the hostess. “After that day, my husband and I asked for help in the wechat group of dog owners, but some of their own dogs have been captured or threatened by being captured, and they also need help”, she said.
“We big dog owners just talk to ourselves” she said. “I often see complaints from individual owners on social media, but we don’t unite to translate these verbal complaints into action. There are more than 60 million pet owners in China, but no one can organize us to against the government.”
As a matter of fact, since the implementation of the policy, big dogs have been taken away frequently, but the actions sent out by dog owners’ groups are rarely heard. According to the data released by the Chenghua District Police Bureau, on average, they confiscate more than 10 dogs a day, which means that a considerable number of dog owners face the threat of losing their dogs every day.
However, according to the information provided by the official websites of six registered pet protection organizations in this region, it is obvious that there is no claim for the rights of big dog owners, or the preparations for activities like protest and demonstration are even more blank.
As Changlin Yang, 38, President of Chengdu Pet Association, wrote on his Weibo blog, “I understand the difficult situation of big dog owners. The reason why we did not take measures is that China is different from western countries. In our country, it is very difficult for non-governmental organizations to protest against the government to have an impact on the current policy.” The association he works for is the largest pet protection organization in Chengdu and it is considered one of the most influential groups in the region.
Zhongzheng Wang, a well-known lawyer, also agreed with Yang about the difficulty that Chinese owner would have to face in launching protests. “It’s almost impossible for Chinese dog owners to defend their rights through demonstrations,” he said.
“Although the Article 35 of China’s Constitution clearly stipulates that citizens of the people’s Republic of China have the freedom of assembly, procession and demonstration”, Wang said. “However, for a long time, the government has imposed strict restrictions on demonstrations. Especially after the promulgation of the ‘law of the people’s Republic of China on processions and demonstrations’ in October 1989, processions and demonstrations need to go through complicated approval procedures, which makes it almost impossible for non-governmental demonstrations to be approved by the government. “
The political system makes it difficult for dog owners to defend their rights through demonstrations. However, a post published by Wang in Zhihu.com aimed at encouraging dog owners to fight for more rights was unexpectedly praised by nearly 100,000 people. Then he issued the title “whether there is any doubt about the government’s dog ban policy”. About 80% of the respondents click “yes”.
“It gave me hope, and I suddenly realized that we may have a lot of possibilities in terms of raising public awareness and mobilizing public power”, he said. After the post gained wide attention, Wang published another letter in Zhihu written in a suggestive tone, which will be submitted by Wang to deputies to the Chinese people’s Congress after being signed anonymously by netizens.
“My purpose is that after reading, reprinting and sharing, netizens can play a certain role in publicizing the public. By pointing out the irrationality of the current policy in the article, I can help big dog owners know how they can fight for rights, perhaps by signing their own names on the letters. I want to gather them all into a powerful force”, Wang said 。
“We don’t want to be enemies with the government. I just try to convey our appeals and ideas to the National People’s Congress deputies, hoping to attract the attention of the government and influence the legislation. The service-oriented government should also listen to the opinions of citizens and make appropriate changes to adapt to the new situation,” he said. The National People’s Congress is the legislature of China.
Wang’s efforts get support by Changlin Yang, he forwarded the letter and initiative on his Weibo, “in order to make more extensive publicity, we encourage individuals or groups to give more commitment and generosity”, according to the data provided by Yang’s club, there are a certain number of dog owners have to contact the group claimed a generous donation.
Yu Li saw this letter through Wechat group and also signed his name. “I hope it can get success”, he said, “but now, my dog is still in the police station though I have tried my every effort to persuade them to give it back”, he said.