updated 12/11/2006 9:08:09 AM ET 2006-12-11T14:08:09

Beijing showed off the achievements of its crackdown on pet dogs on Monday, in the face of criticisms that the city has been cruel in removing pets from owners and arbitrary in its application of the rules.

Since the campaign was launched in October, city officials have gone door-to-door looking for unregistered dogs, owners who contravene a “one-dog policy” and dogs that exceed a 14 inches height limit -- all offences that violate the city’s rules of pet ownership.

“Barking and other disturbances have become a serious problem we have to face,” Yu Hongyuan, an official with the Beijing canine management office, told a news conference.

“To alleviate the problems and make rabies prevention more effective, the municipal government has launched a campaign on becoming a good dog owner,” he said.

City officials unrepentant
At a pound in a Beijing suburb home to 600 dogs, canine victims of the campaign were on display, some barking wildly and others slumped passively in metal cages marked with tags that said “unregistered” or “exceeds height standard” as reasons for their impoundment.

But city officials were unrepentant, saying as dog ownership has surged among Beijing’s nouveau riche, so have complaints of biting and barking.

In the central district of Dongcheng, Wu Zhimin, the head of the local dog-raising administration, showed a thick file of dog registration forms as testament to the campaign’s success, each bearing a mug shot of Fido or Fifi.

The drive to reinforce regulations on dog ownership and register more of the city’s estimated 1 million dogs, has come under fire from animal rights groups and spurred a rare protest last month among the city’s dog lovers.

Animal rights groups say registering dogs and keeping their numbers under control makes sense, especially as the city tries to curb a rabies outbreak that has hit some rural areas, but they object to the heavy-handed way the rules are being implemented.

Groups suggest gradual implementation
“The regulations have been in place since 2003, and the government has to take some responsibility for the fact that they’ve been ignored,” said Jill Robinson, head of Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based charity.

“There are pet shops all over the place, there are pet markets everywhere that are selling large-size dogs and no one has cracked down,” she said.

Instead of forcibly removing dogs that don’t comply with the rules from their owners, the government should allow them to live out their lives in a ’grandfather’ system and gradually implement the policies, she said.

Cradling “Baby” a white, fluffy pooch dressed in a knitted sweater to guard against Beijing’s winter chill, 47-year-old Sun Guiqin said she had no complaints about the rules.

“One is enough,” she said.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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