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February 6, 2010

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Dogs' rabies shots to be mandatory

SHANGHAI is planning to make rabies vaccinations for dogs mandatory, according to the city's new animal quarantine law draft.

But, as only licensed pets are eligible for the annual 10 yuan (US$1.5) shots, many owners now face paying up to 2,000 yuan to register their dogs.

The high cost of registration has led to a rise in the number of unlicensed dogs. Police issued 164,000 new dog licences in 2008, while the number of unregistered dogs is estimated at 800,000.

"It's an urgent task to strengthen the dog's rabies vaccination in the city as the rate is still very low," Sun Lei, the Shanghai Agricultural Commission director, said at a legislative meeting in the city on Thursday.

Sun said the rising number of unlicensed dogs in the city posed a big threat to rabies prevention as, according to the current regulation, only licensed dogs are eligible to be vaccinated in designated veterinary hospitals.

The draft, which is still under discussion by the Shanghai People's Congress, states that all dogs in the city should receive mandatory vaccinations and that pet owners should pay the fee.

Lawmakers haven't decided whether unlicensed pets can be allowed to have the shots, or the penalty for owners who refused to have their dogs vaccinated.

Some owners said the government should pay for the vaccinations.

"Since all the four mandatory vaccination shots for animals are free now, rabies should also be added to the list," said Yuan Chunfang, 56, a local dog owner.

In China, animals are required to be vaccinated against four diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease and the highly pathogenic blue ear disease of pigs for free.

In Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, rabies shots for pets are free.

"They should also lower the license fees too, otherwise why should I spend so much for a dog?" said Zhang Qian.

The 29-year-old local has kept her dog without a license for five years.

Others think pet raising is a personal choice, and owners should be responsible for the expenses themselves.

"If it's free, then every taxpayer will bear the fees," said Zhu Lin, a bank clerk. "That is unfair."


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