Despite their newfound status among middle-class families, the problem caused by dogs came to a peak last week at a time when they were supposed to be celebrated.
The city’s rabies immunization outpatient clinic reported 3,333 cases of dog bites over the “Year of the Dog” holiday break (Feb 15-21), signifying a 15 percent increase from last year (2,897 cases).
The clinic didn’t provide specific examples, but the increase in dog bites during Chinese holidays could be associated with home return visits, such as one case with a Shaanxi woman who was bitten on the lip by the family dog when visiting relatives in Tongchuan.
Much like Spring Festival, other Chinese holidays have experienced increases in dog bites.
During the National Day holiday last October, the city reported 5,523 cases of dog bites, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. Additionally, some 2,000 people were bitten by dogs during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Beijing back in 2016.
When compared to previous holidays, the number of dog bites seem to be increasing over time. There were some 4,000 cases of reported dog bites in Beijing over the 2015 National Day holiday, while the 2013 Spring Festival dropped to 2,000 dog bites after peaking with 3,207 cases in 2011.
And although the city doesn’t attribute the holiday dog bites specifically to pet dogs, attacks by stray dogs don’t usually coincide with festival dates and tend to involve specific aggressive dogs.
In May 2016, a dog on the loose in Beijing’s Fengtai District was responsible for biting 20 people while another dog attacked 30 people in Yong’anli in September that same year.
No cases of rabies were reported during this year, but the problem remains gravely serious.
China has the second-highest number of reported rabies cases in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Two thousand people die each year from rabies in China. In Beijing alone, 27 victims died from rabies in attacks by non-vaccinated dogs between 2014 and 2016, according to Beijing Ditan Hospital.
Even though things have improved since the ’80s, when annual deaths from rabies averaged some 5,000 victims, dogs remain the top transmitter of this preventable disease.
Despite the severity of the problem, some Beijing pet owners refuse to leash their dogs when taking them for walks in public even though a local law forbids it, warning that maximum fines can reach up to RMB 500.
The trend hasn’t gone unnoticed. The issue of irresponsible pet owners drew public scrutiny last year when a plea to a culprit responsible for fatally poisoning dogs fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, the poisoning of pet dogs continues to happen in Beijing with 30 dogs killed last month alone.
If you are a dog owner, we’d like to remind you to get your dog registered at your local police station. The annual mandatory requirement will allow you to get your dog vaccinated for free at select local veterinarians.
There are an estimated 2 million dogs in Beijing, both registered and unregistered.
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