BEIJING — With his Lassie-like looks, QQ might seem like the kind of dog that would win kudos from cops for thwarting a break-in or rescuing a neighbor from a burning home.
But these days, the 2-year-old Scottish shepherd is in hiding on the eastern edge of the Chinese capital, his owners seeking to keep him out of sight of the police.
QQ’s downtown-dwelling owners have shelled out nearly $700 to keep their pooch boarded at a veterinarian’s office for a month, hoping that a crackdown on what Beijing police describe as “large and vicious dogs” will be eased.
The campaign — targeting canines that stand more than 13.8 inches at the shoulder, including greyhounds, chow chows and Dalmatians — has angered and panicked many Beijing dog lovers. By some estimates, there are about 2 million dogs in the city of 20 million, a remarkable figure considering man’s best friend was banned here in the 1980s (along with ducks, pigs and several other animal species).
Police began posting fliers around central Beijing last month, warning residents that large dogs were not allowed and that owners had 10 days to relocate theirs to the edge of the capital or beyond. Then, red-and-white warning banners began to appear even in suburbs such as Shunyi, where Labradors, German shepherds and other big breeds frolic on the lawns of homes that look as if they were transplanted from the cul-de-sacs of suburban America.
“We’ve had dozens of calls,” said Nis Peter Lorentzen, co-founder of Doctors Beck & Stone Pet Health Care Center, which has four branches in Beijing. “The notices have created a lot of chaos.”
Authorities say they are merely enforcing a rule that has been on the books for 10 years. But veterinarians, animal rescue groups and pet parents point out that thousands of “big” dogs have been legally registered for the last decade at local police stations. The licenses cost about $160 for the first year and $80 annually after that.
Some dog owners are afraid to renew the registrations for fear of having their pets seized; some have been walking their animals early in the morning or late at night to minimize the chance of encountering an officer on patrol.
With the official registration renewal period having ended June 30, dog fanciers are waiting to see if police will get even tougher or back off.
“I’m worried about it,” said Wilson Huang, who had paid $3.30 recently to bring his two Samoyeds — QiQi, 8, and Siling, 5 — to romp in the pet play area of Chaoyang Park in central Beijing, a district now supposedly off-limits to large canines. “My dogs are registered, but I’ve heard that if they take them, it’s very hard to get them back, especially if it’s a good breed.”