GUANGZHOU, China – Mrs. Chen can’t imagine abandoning one of her two best friends: her scruffy terrier mutt and a white fluffy Pekingese mix with buggy eyes.
But that’s what the government in this southern Chinese city wants the middle-aged housewife to do when a one-dog policy takes effect next month.
Beginning July 1, each household can raise only one pooch. The regulation won’t be grandfathered in, so families with two or more dogs will apparently have to decide which one gets to stay.
“It’s a cruel regulation. These dogs are like family. How can you keep one and get rid of the others?” said Chen, who declined to give her full name because she feared the police would track her down and seize the dogs.
Such dog controls have touched off resentment among urban – mostly new middle class – Chinese in other cities.
The regulation appears to be part of an effort to control stray dogs in Guangzhou, once known as Canton. An hour north of Hong Kong by train, it is one of the richest cities in China and has a rapidly growing middle class that can afford to own dogs.
Many of the first-time pet owners don’t bother to spay or neuter their animals and are new to the burdens of keeping an animal. The canines often end up on the street when their owners grow tired of raising a cute puppy that grew up into a big mutt and constantly demands care.
Guangzhou is also preparing to host the Asian Games next year, and crews have been scrubbing down and sprucing up the city of 12 million people. Reducing the dog population will likely mean cleaner sidewalks.
Dog owners in Guangzhou aren’t sure if the one-dog policy will be strictly enforced.
Mrs. Chen, the owner of the Pekingese and terrier mixes, said her plan was to register one of her dogs with her parents. She said the Chinese are masters at finding loopholes and other ways to skirt laws.
“In China, we have a saying,” she said. “When the people at the top make a policy, the people at the bottom find a way to get around it.”