Are Pets Protected By Chinese Law?

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Friday, August 05, 2016 

under Community by Enjoy Team

China hardly has a reputation as a safe haven for animals. Some recent events have really brought the issue of animal cruelty into the public eye, though, even more so than the usual outcry that occurs around the Yúlín Dog Festival every year. 


A man in Wēihǎi in Shāndōng was filmed dragging a dog to death behind his car. The video was originally posted on Weibo, but you’ve probably seen it or at least screenshots of it circulating in WeChat groups. It even reached some international media. 


The man was quickly identiifed by netizens, who posted his name, address and personal information online. The perpetrator later confessed to killing the dog on television, and begged netizens to stop sharing his personal information.


Fury is a common reaction to the death or injury of pets. In Chéngdū, a man ran over a dog with a car in front it its owner. According to accounts, it was an accident, but the owner still beat the driver, forced him to kneel in front of the dog to apologize, and pay 800 RMB in compensation.


In both of these cases, the law has not appeared to play a part, it's purely been the actions of people who involved themselves, either intentionally or unintentionally. So are pets in China actually protected by law?


Six-Year Old Proposal (That Went Nowhere)


In March 2010, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences proposed an “Animal Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China”.  The document covers animal care and protection, including a ban on the eating of cats and dogs. It covers wildlife and working animals, such as those on a farm or in a lab. However, it says nothing about the pets, and it has not been adopted into law.


Netizens Protecting Animals Could Be Arrested


According to Hé Shùlì (何树利), a lawyer with, so far, China has no legal punishment for animal torture, but there could be consequences for intervening to stop animal torture from taking place. “Although some Internet users share the information of other people, spreading messages and threats [such as] in Wēihǎi case, from the moral point of view it might make sense, but this kind of the reaction might also be considered as intervention into the private life of the user.”


Another lawyer, Liu Ming from Hunan province said that, in the case of the Weihai animal abuser, the online reaction could “influence his personal life,” with a very real possibility of driving the animal abuser to commit suicide.


In the case of intense invasion of personal privacy which results in the death or injury of a person, offenders could take on serious legal responsibility. Coupled with the fact that Chinese authorities are very sensitive to the idea of people taking the law into their own hands, it could mean that vigilantes trying to rescue an animal would actually be penalized for invading a person’s privacy.


Weird Work-Around Legal Protection for Pets


Some have suggested that pet owners could report the killing or abuse of their animal to the Public Security Bureau as a case of violence, so long as it took place in a public place. Failing this, the pet owner could possibly report the killer or abuser to the police and attempt to sue them for damages under China’s Property Law, as pets are considered property.

As it stands, however, there appears to be no legal protection for pets in China. If the owner decides he wants to abuse or kill his or her pet, it seems unlikely they’ll be charged with anything besides perhaps disturbing others


It only takes a quick glance in the comments section of these stories to see the kind of furious reaction to animal abusers. In the absence of a law preventing the abuse of animals, that fury could finally result in some netizens taking drastic steps to “avenge” an animal. That is almost as scary as the idea that some people could get away with just a fine for dragging a helpless dog to its death behind their car.