China Reclassifies Dogs as Pets Not Livestock

China Reclassifies Dogs as Pets
China Reclassifies Dogs as Pets Not Livestock
China offers new protections for dogs in response to COVID-19

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In the wake of COVID-19, there has been a lot of discussion around when will things go back to normal and if what we consider “normal” will change. The good news is that some of those changes may be good ones, especially for dogs. 

The novel coronavirus is thought to have originated in a so called “wet market” in Wuhan Province, China dealing in the sale of live wild animals, suggesting animal-to-person spread. (Many of the animals found in these markets are endangered and trafficked for sale as traditional “medicine.”) 

As part of their systemic response to COVID-19, many countries around the world are looking at animal welfare, factory farming, and wildlife markets to investigate if conditions in these facilities can lead to viruses spreading to animals and humans. As a result of such inquiry, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has released new animal classifications of animals. Under these new guidelines, dogs will be explicitly classified under the law as pets rather than livestock. This is great news for ending the “farming” and butchering of dogs for meat.  

Under these policy changes, the Humane Society International (HSI) reports that the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture stated, “With the progress of human civilization and the public’s concern and preference for animal protection, dogs have changed from traditional domestic animals to companion animals. Dogs are generally not regarded as livestock and poultry around the world, and China should also not manage them as livestock and poultry.” This new regulation also outlaws the breeding, consumption, and trading of wildlife in response to the COVID-19 outbreak which is believed to have originated in bats in a wet market.


“Recognizing that dogs hold a special bond with humans is an essential first step towards eliminating the consumption and trade in dog meat.”
 

This new regulation from the Ministry of Agriculture comes just a month after Shenzhen became the first city in China to officially ban eating dog meat. Humane Society International has been a vocal supporter of ending the dog meat trade in China. The organization estimates that 10 million dogs are killed annually for meat in China. In recent years, dog meat has fallen out of favour across China, especially in younger generations. Dog meat is not a part of the culinary mainstream in the country. In fact, a 2017 survey organized by Humane Society International shows that dog meat is only eaten infrequently by less than 20 percent of the Chinese population. 

Dog meat bans already exist in Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and The Philippines. This new document released by China represents the first time that dogs have explicitly been commented on by the Chinese government in regard to meat. Dr. Peter Li, China policy specialist at Humane Society International, says: “This is the first time we’ve ever seen China’s national government explain that dogs are companion animals. Recognizing that dogs hold a special bond with humans is an essential first step towards eliminating the consumption and trade in dog meat. This could be a pivotal moment that provides encouragement for other cities across the country to follow Shenzhen’s lead to ban the eating of dogs and cats.” 

HSI has been instrumental in shutting down dog meat farms across Asia by supporting farmers transitioning their business to more humane industries and financially supporting these farmers in their new business ventures. HSI then takes custody of the dogs, rehabilitating them and transporting many of them to the United States, Canada, and the UK where they are adopted. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 rescue transports have temporarily not been able to bring dogs out of Asia, so they are ensuring the dogs are being cared until they can be transported internationally.

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