After Dog Mauls Child, Chinese Cities Push to Tighten Pet Laws
A harrowing dog attack on a two-year-old in Chongzhou City, in the southwestern Sichuan province, this week has prompted a nationwide call for dog owners to raise their pets in a more “civilized” manner.
On Monday, footage circulated online showing a black Rottweiler assaulting a young child and her mother. The video, which lasted two minutes, captured the Rottweiler mauling the child for around 40 seconds. The mother, who was en route to dropping her daughter off at kindergarten, fought to fend off the dog until a cleaner and a passerby finally intervened and chased the Rottweiler away.
The video also shows that the dog had been wandering alone for roughly a minute prior to the attack, with its owner nowhere in sight.
According to the Chongzhou Public Security Bureau, the toddler sustained severe injuries to her right kidney and ribs from the attack. By Tuesday, authorities had detained the owner of the Rottweiler, holding him legally accountable. The child’s vital signs remain stable.
The disturbing incident quickly amassed millions of views on the microblogging platform Weibo, and ignited widespread debate over dog ownership in cities.
In response to the incident, several communities across Sichuan rolled out guidelines on managing pet dogs on Tuesday and initiated measures to manage strays. In Shehong City, officials introduced a notice emphasizing stricter dog management, in addition to the existing registration and licensing system. Additionally, the notice cautioned residents against raising large and aggressive breeds.
In a similar move, the Ebian Yi Autonomous County in Leshan City issued a directive that any dog not restrained or found roaming freely in public spaces will be deemed a stray and subject to capture.
Beyond Sichuan, urban communities in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in the southern Guangdong province have introduced guidelines urging responsible dog ownership. These guidelines emphasize the importance of leashing dogs in public, abiding by local laws, and using muzzles in crowded areas.
However, in China, laws governing pet dogs differ across cities. Each city has its own list of prohibited breeds that, if involved in an attack, could result in owner liability. For example, in Chengdu, rottweilers are not categorized among the 23 breeds deemed “fierce,” whereas they are in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
This discrepancy arises from the Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention, which mandates that specific guidelines for the prevention and management of dogs are set by local governments. Consequently, definitions of “large” and “fierce” can also vary based on regional authorities’ different criteria.
In a commentary in the Shanghai news outlet, The Paper, Yang Lixin, professor at the School of Law, Renmin University of China, underscored that the liability of the dog owner in Chengdu might depend on whether a dog is on the “prohibited list.”
He explained that, according to the Civil Code, if a dog deemed “fierce” and on the prohibited list harms an individual, its owner or handler is held liable.
If the attacking dog is not classified as “fierce,” the owner or handler is still liable for any harm caused, especially if they failed to take appropriate safety measures. However, this liability may be reduced if evidence suggests the injured party intentionally provoked the dog.
In an effort to curb such incidents, in 2020, Beijing identified dogs being let off leashes and not cleaning up after them as major public concerns, necessitating regulation. Further emphasizing responsible dog ownership, the Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention, amended in May 2021, mandated the use of leashes while walking dogs, marking a significant move in pet management across the country.
(Header image: A screenshot show the dog attacking the mother and daughter, in Chongzhou County, Sichuan province, Oct. 16, 2023. From Weibo)