14/02/2008 Changing Attitudes in China

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Hope for the future!

Pet club event in China   AAF's Dog & Cat Care Leaflet
Amidst all this bad news for dogs and cats, there is hope. Pet ownership is exploding in China, and research shows that pet owners disagree with dog and cat eating.

The demographics in China are changing rapidly. Traditionally, entire families would live together under one roof, but today the trend is for young Chinese to move out and set up their own homes, thus leaving the older generation to live alone. Many are buying pets for company. The advent of the one child family planning policy on the mainland has resulted in lots of lonely children and increasingly pet dogs are brought into the family for company.

Under communism, dog ownership was forbidden in urban areas since it was feared as a public health hazard and seen as a sign of a bourgeois, capitalist indulgence. Additionally, because of the lack of civic education concerning responsible pet ownership, rabies is (and continues to be) a big problem. In 2004 over 2,000 people died from rabies, a huge number which serves to make people afraid of dogs.

The license to keep a pet dog in the city was, until very recently, extortionate - around US$2,800 per year – to discourage people from keeping dogs. Today, the fee has been reduced, but is still extremely costly. Initial registration costs as much as US$1,235 a year in Guangzhou, for example. In Beijing, however, the fee has recently been cut from US$660 for initial registration to US$110, and the subsequent yearly fee is approximately US$60. But even the lower fee in Beijing is quite a lot of money when you consider that the average worker’s salary in China is just US$950 per year.

Despite the obstacles, pet ownership is continuing to grow rapidly. Estimates are that there are now over half a million registered dogs in Beijing, with many millions unregistered. Owning a dog has become a status symbol and it seems that in the long-term, the pet industry may be much more profitable than the meat dog industry. Wealthy young mainlanders lavish money on their pets, and pet shops and grooming salons are popping up all over the big cities. The situation for dogs in the countryside has, unfortunately, remained largely unchanged. Traditionally, there has been a very practical approach taken towards dogs, i.e. they guard your house and then they are eaten. However, the fact is that opinions for the whole country are made in the key cities, there is hope for the future.

With attitudes towards dogs in transition (“pampered pet”, “meat dog”, "pet dog", “street dog”, “rabied dog”), we believe that we have a window of opportunity to raise the profile of dogs and cats, showcasing them as our friends and helpers, in need of our love, respect and protection. Thus we are expanding our Dr. Dog programme, together with distributing our "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" inspirational and educational film, which compels people to reconsider their attitude to dog and cat eating.

We are also aware that the new pet owner often has little information as to how to care for their pet. For this reason, we have created our own Animals Asia pet care leaflet that is being included in the "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" Film Pack that is currently being distributed by the thousand, free of charge, across China.


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