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Courts report rise in disputes over pets

By Shi Yingying  (China Daily)

08:19, September 19, 2012

A growing number of disputes concerning pets have been taken to court in Shanghai since 2008.

According to figures from Shanghai's Huangpu District People's Court, Shanghai courts observed a 50 percent increase in pet-related disputes between January to May compared with the same period last year.

"There were only 30 cases involving disputes over pets in Shanghai in 2008, while this figure jumped to 72 last year," said Tang Zhengming, staff member at Huangpu District People's Court. He added there were 242 such cases from 2008 to May.

A woman in her 70s was walking home from doing the grocery shopping in downtown Shanghai when she fell down after being scared by a pet dog, breaking her thighbone. The old lady, surnamed Wu, was then declared as having an eighth degree disability.

Wu lodged a complaint with a claim for 180,000 yuan ($28,481) as compensation after failing to reach an agreement with the dog's owner regarding compensation.

However, her claim for compensation was not settled smoothly. The dog's owner, surnamed Chen, insisted that Wu herself should take responsibility for falling as the dog did nothing to her, neither barking nor biting.

The court finally decided that both parties contributed to the accident, making Chen, as the keeper of the dog, pay 90,000 yuan for Wu's loss.

Wu is not alone. The number of disputes regarding injuries caused by pets, especially large-sized dogs, is on the rise.

"The main problem in solving such cases is deciding if and to what extent the dogs have contributed to the injury, because there is usually no direct contact between dogs and the injured," said Jin Minzhen, vice president of Shanghai's Huangpu District People's Court.

"It is even more difficult for those who are injured by wild dogs or abandoned pets to claim compensation," Jin said. "Even if the owner is found, he is not likely to shoulder the responsibility."

In April, only 230,000 of the estimated 500,000 dogs in Shanghai were registered.
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