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May 10, 2011

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Keep your dog on a leash come Sunday ...

SHANGHAI'S first law governing the keeping of dogs comes into effect on Sunday.

But, with less than a week to go, exactly how much a dog owner will be paying for the annual license is still not known.

Lawmakers said the pricing authorities were still "fine tuning" their final decision to make sure the license charge, a core concern for many, would "be reasonable."

However, they said the fee "would be much cheaper" than the current charge, which can be up to 2,000 yuan (US$308) a year and that it would be announced soon.

Apart from a cheaper license, the responsibilities of dog owners will be much clearer under the new law and supported by a detailed system of penalties, legislators said.

For example, a person who fails to correctly leash the dog or clear up its excrement would be fined up to 200 yuan. The new law says a pet dog should not only always be leashed in public but the leash must be no longer than 2 meters.

Owners whose dogs endanger public safety face fines from 5,000 to 50,000 yuan, under the new rules. Compared to many other local regulations supervising public behavior, the monetary penalties for dog owners are much tougher, legislators said.

They said foreign residents will come under the same rules as Shanghai residents, including the "one household, one dog" policy.

But dogs that have been licensed before Sunday would be exempt.

"The law not only sets up terms to encourage dog owners to keep good manners in raising pets but also focuses on elaborating their legal obligations. About one quarter of the terms are about the punishments resulted from infractions," said Ding Wei, a local legislator and leader of the panel that drew up the new law.

Ensuring the legislation is complied with on a daily basis will largely depend on the public and organizations such as neighborhood committees and residential property managements.

People can use the 110 police hotline to report infringements while neighborhood committees are legally authorized under the rules to set up dog-free public areas inside their complexes, so long as they have the support of the majority of residents.

The local law bans dogs, except for guide dogs, from entering all public venues such as cinemas, hospitals, Metro stations, buses and restaurants. Owners who break these rules face fines.

Legislators say they are considering introducing volunteer teams in future to help persuade dog owners to comply with the law, such as cleaning up after their dogs in public, the issue that has attracted the most complaints.

Shanghai is also considering building pet toilets in busy downtown areas such as at People's Square, lawmakers said yesterday.

Police say the number of licensed pet dogs in Shanghai has increased from 45,000 in 1990s to about 140,000 at present. And they believe there are also at least 600,000 unlicensed dogs in the city.

Legislators believe the lower licensing fee will encourage more dog owners to register their pets.

Under the new law, owners will pay 40 to 60 yuan to the authorities to have their dogs vaccinated as well as 60 yuan for a chip implant to identify the dog as being licensed.


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