A defining moment from my childhood was when my mom and dad agreed that my brother and I were old enough for a family pet. At the time, I was more focused on having a new cute plaything than thinking about everything involved with owning a dog. But when we finally brought him home and I was asked to feed, walk, train and care for him, I quickly realized my parents were right when they said taking care of a dog was a "big responsibility".
I often wonder whether some of Shanghai's dog owners understand the responsibility of dog ownership. There is hardly a day when I don't see someone in my apartment compound walking a dog around without a leash or letting that dog use the sidewalk as its toilet - and leaving the mess there for the world to enjoy. While I hope that Shanghai can be more of a "pet-friendly" city, the problems of urban pet ownership deserve attention.
Shanghai's new one-dog policy, which restricts dog ownership to one per household, will have the clout of hefty fines to prevent irresponsible dog ownership when it goes into effect on May 15. But many are wondering what effect it will have on the city's dog-related problems. The law may have stemmed from the more than 600,000 unregistered dogs in the city, too much poop on the streets, increases in dog attacks and complaints of dogs barking, but it's not clear that limiting the number of dogs per household will solve these problems.
Dog owners need to be educated on how to care for and raise their furry friends, rather than be threatened with fines. If dog owners knew to keep their dogs on leashes, it would be a lot more difficult for dogs to attack and bite people. If people knew how to properly train dogs to keep them from barking, maybe neighbors wouldn't be quite so annoyed. And if people knew the sanitation problems associated with not picking up after their dogs on the sidewalk, maybe the city would be a little cleaner.
Marvin Manalac from Jaiya's Animal Rescue (JAR) in Shanghai thinks it is good to have a policy in place for control purposes, but that proper laws need to be implemented. "The government needs to do more by passing animal protection laws. But things are still developing and time is needed to improve matters."
One bright spot in the new law is the reduced registration fee for neutered or spayed pets. The city has enough strays as it is and the people at animal-rescue organizations like JAR work hard to find these animals home. On today's Culture Matters, Manalac says that the best way to prevent more stray animals is to spay or neuter dogs and cats. Vets, dog trainers and owners share their thoughts about the new law, and they offer some basic tips on how to better train your pooch and how you can be more dog friendly.
While the law might not be the solution to all of Shanghai's doggie dilemmas, hopefully residents will be encouraged to help control the pet population and be reminded of proper care for their pooches.
Culture Matters is a cross-cultural bilingual talk show on International Channel Shanghai (ICS), airing every Sunday from 7 to 8 pm.