Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Blame lack of comprehensive law, not dogs, for split in society

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-03 08:45

Blame lack of comprehensive law, not dogs, for split in society

An expressionless dog sits in a cage with other dogs that will be killed in Yulin. Many dogs are killed in front of other dogs. Peter Li, China policy specialist for the Humane Society International who paid a visit to Yulin from March 29 to April 2, says many dogs die many times, both physically and psychologically. [Photo provided to China Daily by the Humane Society International]

The funeral music began playing and someone lit a candle, as people lined up to bow before a photo of the deceased.

But the burial held in Minhang sporting park, Shanghai municipality on Monday was not for a person, but for a dog beaten to death by the park keeper.

Not surprisingly, this sparked fierce debate online. Dog lovers blamed the guard for being too cruel. Others pointed out dogs are not supposed to be in parks without an owner and the guard had done his duty.

Especially, as the annual Yulin dog meat festival, which is held on summer solstice in Southwestern China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, approaches, the debate is becoming intensified.

One thing is certain, the support for animal rights is a sign of social progress. Research results show that animal rights promoters in general care more about people's livelihoods, too. So now one animal rights protection organization after another has emerged in China that means we have become more civilized and care more about the overall well-being of society. .

You cannot blame those who criticized the fuss made over the death of a dog, either, because some people don't like dogs and others say we should show more compassion for the needy in society.

And there are those who dislike dogs because they are a threat in their daily lives. Two months ago, in Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province, a dog attacked a guard and some residents in a community and the owner did not show up until hours later. The guard received six wounds on the face, and when he tried to sue the dog owner for compensation, he found the legal process is so long and complicated that he could not afford the time and energy to go to the court.

Similar news makes headlines almost every month. Sometimes a dog gets killed, and sometimes a person gets bitten. More frequently, people find dogs have left a mess in their communities and are angry about it.

The problem lies in lack of a proper law that both protects animal rights and regulates those who own pets. When somebody walks an aggressive dog in the community, there is no law that requires him keep it on a lead; no law that requires him to clean the dog's mess up, and no law that requires him to keep the dog a set distance away from children.

Equally, there is no law that helps a dog owner when his or her dog gets stolen or intentionally hurt. He cannot ask for compensation because the law simply does not support this and the police won't help him because that's not their jobs. As a result, the relationship between dog owners and their neighbors can be fraught.

Worse, the existing laws that try to regulate pets are not well implemented. For example, the law says all dog owners should register their animal with the police. However, in Beijing for example, the police require owners to provide five kinds of supporting materials, which must be obtained at three separate agencies, and pay 1,000 yuan ($151.6) a year to keep a dog registered.

Do they mean to discourage people from registering? Analysts estimate that less than 20 percent of the dogs in Beijing are registered and many dog owners simply don't bother because of the complicated procedures and high cost.

To sum up, it is not the dogs' fault for the split in society; it is the lack of a comprehensive legal framework for animal rights and dog ownership. Thus the cure lies in accelerating the introduction of an animal rights law and better enforcing the existing laws that regulate pet owners.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

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