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Dogs are the responsibility of their owners

By Xiao Lixin (China Daily)

12:58, July 03, 2013

Two dog attacks on children in less than a month were enough to spark a heated debate over the responsibilities of pet owners. On June 27, a Tibetan mastiff fatally attacked a 6-year-old girl in Dalian, Liaoning province. Yucheng in Shanxi province saw an attack by the same breed of dog on an 8-year-old girl on June 3, but the victim was fortunately saved by a villager, who managed to drive away the dog.

In fact, such attacks are not new. One month ago, a senior citizen in Zunyi, Guizhou province was attacked and eaten by two dogs that had been not fed for three days.

The series of attacks have also widened the divide between those who love dogs and those who don't. Tempers on both sides have risen so high that two dog owners beat up a doctor in Beijing for posting anti-dog messages on weibo.

Earlier this month, Beijing police issued a notice forbidding people in certain urban areas and some densely populated rural areas from keeping dogs above 35 cm in height and 41 breeds identified as violent in order to "maintain good public order and protect citizens' personal safety". The notice also says that individual dog owners violating the regulation will be fined 5,000 yuan (815 U.S. dollars). The fine for organizations violating the regulation is 10,000 yuan.

The regulation has added fuel to the debate on urban dog management and thrown many Beijing residents who own large or any of the banned 41 breeds into panic.

While debating whether the new regulation is reasonable, netizens seem to agree that, compared with simply prohibiting local households from keeping large dogs, the authorities should find a better way to regulate dog owners' behaviors as responsible members of society.

Dog owners whose dogs attack others should not only pay compensation to the victims, but also be punished according to the law. In 2009 a dog owner surnamed Kang at a village in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, didn't feed his dogs for several days. As a result the dogs bit a young boy to death. Kang received a three-year sentence suspended for four years. That was the first time a dog owner in China was sentenced by a court.

However, because of lax law enforcement on dog owners whose dogs attack others, the authorities should strengthen law enforcement and take steps to raise their sense of social responsibility.

Some dog owners do act irresponsibly and have indeed caused trouble. They either don't train their pets to behave properly or cannot control them in public. From barking loudly in the morning to biting passersby, dogs have become a source of irritation and fear for many people. Besides, many dog owners don't even bother to clean the pavements after their pets defecate in public.

Dogs are raised for various reasons, the most common being to guard a house and/or provide their owners emotional comfort. And since its dog owners' responsibility to train their pets to behave properly in public, they should shoulder the blame for the increasing dog phobia among the public. And dog owners who criticize the new regulation should first fulfill their due responsibilities.

Dog owners should abide by relevant regulation and register their dogs with the local authorities. True dog lovers will fulfill all their legal obligations to protect their pets from any potential harm.

Also, a dog owner should know that he/she is responsible for his/her pet for as long as it lives and that he/she should never abandon it after welcoming it into his/her family. Perhaps we could learn a lesson from neighboring Japan on pet ownership and management. In Japan, a dog owner who fails to feed his/her dog or abandons it could be fined up to 300,000 yen (3,09 dollars) and people who intentionally hurt or kill their dogs face one year's imprisonment and a fine of up to 1 million yen. The strict regulation forces potential dog owners in Japan to be fully prepared for the upkeep of a dog for the rest of its life before actually getting one.

While enjoying the fun and pleasure dogs bring into the lives of their masters, dog owners should strictly follow dog management rules. They should be prepared to pay the penalty if their pets injure other people or cause damage to their property.

Moreover, dog owners should cultivate a sense of public awareness, which is part of urban dog management. While walking a dog in public, a person should hold his/her dog's leash tightly to prevent it from running wild and scaring people. Owners should also carry paper or plastic bags to clean their dogs' excreta.

It doesn't take much time or money for dog owners to fulfill their responsibilities, so they have no reason not to do so. And if all dog owners fulfill their social obligations and prevent their pets from running wild and biting and scaring other people, there will be no need for dog lovers and dog haters to go for each other's throats.

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