updated 8/7/2007 2:40:00 PM ET 2007-08-07T18:40:00

Rising numbers of pet dogs in Beijing are causing problems — from overcrowding to rabies, state media said Tuesday.

More than 100,000 dogs have been newly registered this year, bringing the Chinese capital's dog population to 703,879 and prompting a "string of social problems," the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Complaints about barking and dogs fouling public spaces are on the rise, while numbers of strays abandoned by their masters are growing, it said.

Most seriously, attacks on people have risen 33.7 percent from the same period last year, with about 83,000 people treated for bites and other canine-inflicted wounds, it said, blaming owners who allow their pets to wander without leashes.

Two people have died of rabies, both on the city's outskirts, where roaming dogs are most common, the report said.

Despite the rising popularity of dogs as pets, the government continues to enforce harsh restrictions such as expensive licensing fees and a limit on one dog per family in Beijing.

Many local governments have ordered mass killings of dogs to control the spread of rabies. Last year, rabies killed more than 3,000 people last year in China.

However, the Chinese capital's growing middle class has become increasingly vocal in protecting their canine companions, with a recent campaign to enforce restrictions met by an extraordinary public protest by dog owners.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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