Demonstrators angry over a crackdown on dogs staged a noisy protest in China's capital yesterday, demanding a stop to mass killings aimed at controlling pet populations.
About 200 police kept watch and strung up tape to cordon off the roughly 500 demonstrators, as they held up stuffed animals, waved signs and chanted "Down with Dog-raising Restrictions" near the entrance to the Beijing Zoo. Many wore buttons that said "Respect Life, Oppose Indiscriminate Killing."
Among the complaints, the protesters said, were rules limiting households to one dog, a prohibition on dogs taller than 35cm and the police's beating to death of strays.
Keeping pets has evoked controversy in China for decades. Banned as a middle-class habit in the radical Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, dog-raising surged with the introduction of free-market reforms.
Complaints about badly trained dogs, barking and fouled sidewalks prompted Beijing to impose the height limits.
A sharp rise in rabies this year led to a renewed clampdown across China, with police beating stray or unregistered dogs to death, sometimes in front of their owners. Beijing responded by raising fines for having unregistered and unvaccinated dogs and adopting the new one-dog-per-family rule.
Protesters said the measures were not only inhumane but incorrectly placed the burden of punishment on the dogs, not the owners.
"The main point here should be the way dog owners raise their dogs," said Jeff He of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Beijing, who watched the protest.
Though the demonstration was largely peaceful, anti-riot squads in helmets and dark uniforms were dispatched, and protesters gave differing accounts as to whether any demonstrators had been taken away.
Police used loudspeakers to urge protesters to take their complaints to a special desk set up inside the zoo. Nine representatives of the protesters were taken inside the zoo to discuss the protest with police, protesters said.