Wednesday, November 01, 2006

For Chinese Dogs, Size Matters

In China, a dog's life comes into vogue
BEIJING – In most cities, taking your dog for a walk in the dead of night could be seen as a personal quirk or a byproduct of insomnia. But in Beijing, it's a sure sign that the city's dogcatchers are on the prowl for illicit mutts. If you don't want your pet to end up in the pen or as protein on someone's plate, it's best to keep a low profile.

Once shunned by communist ideologues as capitalist vermin, dogs have become a firm favorite among China's fast-growing middle class and a status symbol among the well-heeled. A generation raised in one-child families is eager to bond with household pets. In Beijing, the number of registered dogs is up 16 percent this year, to 530,000, but the true dog population is likely far higher, as many animals are unregistered.

The reason is not only to avoid paying a $75 to $125 registration fee. Big dogs - those with a shoulder height of more than 35 centimeters (about 13 inches) - are banned in central Beijing. If you want to own a Labrador or Husky, two popular breeds in China, you run the risk of your prized pet being detained as an illegal breed. But regulations being what they are, some dog owners were prepared to flout them, betting that law enforcers had bigger fish to fry.


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