Two dog-related stories appeared online on Monday, showing the two extremes of people's love and hate for the animal.
A university professor in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, spent 100,000 yuan ($13,000) to hold a funeral for his dead pet dog on Sunday. A week earlier, six men bludgeoned a dog to death before its owner's very eyes in a street in Lanzhou, Gansu Province.
Though his unconventional behavior may cause repulsion given the fact that a fair large part of the Chinese population is still poverty stricken and 100,000 yuan would be enough to put dozens of rural children through school, the professor can't be blamed for he did nothing to harm anyone.
The cold-blooded killing of a dog by six men wielding heavy cudgels, however, is something else.
In their defense, the men said they did not slay the canine without good reason. One of them said the dog, a large collie, had scared his friend's child and its owner had bullied the child's parents during the subsequent quarrel. He said he and the five other friends of the child's parent had to kill the dog because they couldn't count on the local authorities to stop it being a threat to children, even though they had reported it to the police.
I definitely disagree with the brutal slaughter of the dog but I would be speechless if the man asked me this question: "What else do you think we can do for justice to be done?"
I certainly would not say something like, "leave the matter to the government for a proper treatment", as is often suggested by media commentators. I know "proper treatment" in most cases would mean simply letting the matter drop after a suitably protracted delay. The authorities have much weightier things to attend to than trivial brawls between neighbors.
However, disputes between dog lovers and their neighbors who do not raise pets are not trivial.
Last week, a pet wolfhound bit off the left half of a 4-year-old girl's face in Anshan, a city in Liaoning Province.
On August 31 last year, a nine-year-old boy was eaten alive by two wolfhounds raised by a neighbor in Lishi county, Shanxi Province.
Injuries caused by large dogs are not rare: Such reports never cease.
Complaints about dogs have been on the increase, covering everything from their nighttime barking, fouling of pavements, the threat to children and spread of disease.
Most places have laws and rules on the raising of dogs that are generally exhaustive enough to cover all eventualities. But the execution of them is not always as it should be. Violation of the laws and rules is visible everywhere but there seems to be little punishment.
For example, I have never seen anyone who failed to clean up after their pet being punished. Of course, I might have missed the occasions when someone did, but the droppings widely seen in public greenbelts suggest most people are getting away with it.
Another example of weak governance in this regard: Beijing has about 1 million pet dogs but only 500,000 are officially registered with the police.
Pet lovers have the rights to raise dogs. But when their pets' actions impinge on the interests of other people, they must be held accountable and compensate those who are hurt in any way.
Most people do not raise dogs. In Beijing, for example, just one in five households has a pet dog.
To the authorities: Please seriously address the problem of pet-related neighborhood conflicts. Don't leave people's pets to the mercy of angry victims of dangerous dogs.
(China Daily 06/06/2007 page10)