The literal translation of the Chinese term for pet is ‘thing to dote on’. For centuries, the imperial family doted on its pet dogs, and China cultivated special breeds, notably the Pekinese. After the founding of the People’s Republic, pets officially became bourgeois and unsanitary. As a result of dog-killing campaigns in the 1950s, virtually no dogs remained in the cities by the 1960s, except in the northeast and southeast, where they were raised for food. The post-Mao economic reforms and the growth of a Chinese middle class led to a marked change in views and policies towards pets. By the 1990s, pet dogs were reappearing in large numbers in the cities, many imported over the border from Russia.
Today, about one in six households in Beijing keeps a pet—about half are dogs, with cats, birds and goldfish also popular, and family crickets, pigs and even rats not unusual.
Localities still control the dog population through tight regulations and high fees, as well as high fines for transgressing the rules. In major cities, a dog licence costs hundreds of dollars, and owners must pay additional annual fees. Beijing restricts dog-walking to after daytime business hours, and owners cannot keep animals over a certain size. Health checks and vaccinations also are required. The pet boom has spawned associated services and industries, from veterinarians and pet hospitals to shelters and hotlines, from import and manufacture of pet food to provision of fancy fish tanks, dog kennels, pet toys and pet clothes. Shanghai boasts the first animal crematorium.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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