SHANGHAI - This city's latest pet regulation is likely to result in the desertion of more dogs, animal protection volunteers are warning.
According to the new rule, which came into effect on May 15, a household can keep no more than a single pet dog. If pet owners want more, they must have the extra animals registered at a different address or household.
The rule, although not widely known of in Shanghai, was in fact part of a regulation issued in 1997. The latest regulation merely reiterates it.
Jenny Sun, a volunteer with "I-dog-I-cat", a group dedicated to rescuing stray pets, said she fears some dog owners will now be driven to desperate measures.
"Some new dog owners, if they really want to obey the rule, may decide to desert a second or third dog," she said.
And Sun said some pet owners will evade the regulation by "registering a dog to the residence of their parents, in-laws or a friend and then keeping it at home."
If a second or third dog is discovered, "They can just say it's in their home for a brief visit. No one can forbid that."
Han Zhiyao, who opened a shop selling puppies at the Wanshang Pet Market in downtown Shanghai, said it will be difficult for authorities to know if someone is breaking the rule. Long-time pet owners know that no one will inspect their homes to learn how many dogs they have and, to avoid giving rise to suspicions, will make it a practice to walk only one dog at a time.
"And as long as (the dogs) look similar, they can share one license," Han said.
Sun, for her part, said she is not totally against the new regulation.
"It is reasonable to limit the number of dogs that can be in cities," she said. "Dogs, especially those of a larger species, need a lot of space for exercise. So this rule actually helps to protect the animals' welfare."
At the same time, she said enforcing the regulation will be difficult.
"One of the rules bans several species of bulldogs and mastiffs in Shanghai," she said. "But who will be in charge of making an official determination of a dog's breeding?"
Sun also noted that all dogs licensed in Shanghai carry inside them chips containing information about their owners and about what vaccinations they have received. She said she and her fellow workers have wanted to access that information when they pick up stray dogs on the street but have had trouble finding a place where the chips could be scanned.
"If the chip is not of any actual use, what's the point of us paying 300 yuan ($46) to the dog administration for it?"
Shanghai, according to estimates, contains more than 600,000 dogs. By 2010, only 50,000 of them had been licensed.