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  Beijing Scene


Hey Ayi,
I want to buy a dog, but the only pet I've ever had is a goldfish and it died after a day. Where can I find a canine companion in Beijing, and how do I look after it once I get one?
Puppy Love

Dear Love Hound,
When your Ayi was a wee lass, the closest she came to looking after animals was chasing cockroaches out of the kitchen. Animals such as cats and dogs have always been commonplace in the Middle Kingdom, but have been considered pests by civilized city dwellers for centuries.

But these days it seems every family in Beijing is running around with a new best friend, be it of the canine, feline or piscine variety. After Hello Kitty mobile phone attachments, fur-trimmed leather coats, and handbags for men, the urban pet has become the newest "must-have" accessory.

Treatment of animals varies in China. In the south there's a saying that if it "flies in the air, runs on the ground, or swims in the sea" it can be eaten. This is especially true of Guangzhou, where visitors who go to animal markets have trouble deciding whether the creatures in the cages are destined for the pet basket or the cooking pot.

North of the Yangtze River, animal markets of any kind are a relatively new concept. In Beijing, even given the growing popularity of pets, places to buy them are hard to come by. The one exception is birds, which have long been accepted as traditional Chinese pets. Often "newer" varieties of domesticated creatures, such as dogs and cats, are sold in the same markets that sell birds.

Buying animals in Beijing can still feel like an underground mission. It is not uncommon to see shifty-eyed men standing on street corners whipping out fluffy puppies from inside their black coats or toting random caged animals that disappear at the first sight of the law.

There are a few legitimate pet markets in Beijing, including the Guanyuan Market south of Chegongzhuang on the Second Ring Road. Little "Rovers" and "Snowballs" waiting to be adopted are hawked among Chinese paintings, ancient coins and glazed pottery.

When selecting a pet to take home, the caveat "buyer beware" may never ring truer. The little Pekinese with cute bulging eyes and glowing white fur may well lose its shine in the wash (word is that some of the puppies are bleached and dyed) and suddenly possess a range of undiagnosed illnesses. As with purchasing a pet anywhere in the world, it is better to know the owner and the animal's mother before you buy.

Alternatively, you can buy dogs at the Xiwu Horse Club, which also has a breeding kennel. All the dogs there have received vaccinations and there are members of staff there who can speak English. Although the breeding farm is in the suburbs you can first stop by their office, located in the City Hotel on Gongti North Road.

Beijing also has an animal shelter (ren yu dongwu huanbao jiaoyu zhongxin) just beyond the Fourth Ring Road, which allows you to adopt animals that have been abandoned. If you're looking for cuddly puppies and kittens, this may not be the place for you since most of the animals range from one to five years-old. But all are fully vaccinated and the center provides the necessary documents you will need to obtain a license.

The popularity of pets has given rise to improved veterinary services throughout Beijing. Vets have long existed in China, although most were mainly based in rural areas and received only rudimentary training in veterinary medicine. Only recently have vets been able to relinquish the stigma associated with the bumpkin life of the countryside and receive formal education. Even so, most vets emerging around Beijing are likely biology grads who taught themselves veterinary science.

Once you have found your life-long buddy, get the required inoculations and maintain a regular check-up schedule. Keep in mind that many animals are still unregistered in Beijing so rabies vaccinations should be administered every six months. Also, unless you have your pet neutered you will at some point end up with unwanted visitors and new members of the family.

If you don't possess a wide vocabulary of Chinese veterinary terms, Dr. Dai Shu offers services, including house calls, in English. One of the few Beijing vets with medical qualifications and overseas experience, he can either examine your pet in his clinic or at your home. Another plus, he often has vets from overseas working with him.

Other downtown clinics include the Guanyuan Pet Center (guanyuan chongwu zhongxin) in Xizhimen and the Kang Kang Center (kangkang chongwu baojian zhongxin) in Jinsong, just opposite the Jinsong Hospital (jinsong yiyuan). Kang Kang's other center is located behind the International Exhibition Center. All provide general medical care, including check-ups and shots.

Maintaining a healthy diet for your pet will decrease the number of times you have to visit the vet. Pet foods such as Whiskas can be found at any of the above clinics, along with food designed for more specific dietary requirements, such as canine kidney problems.

The Yiya World of Park Pets (yiya shijie chongwu zhongxin) on Gongti North Road, in addition to selling animals, offers a variety of pet accessories, such as dog leashes, toys, baskets and fur brushes. Pet food and litter can also be purchased at general food stores such as the Friendship Store on Jianguomenwai and shops in Sanlitun such as Jenny Lou's.

Before making a final decision, understand that there are strict laws in China that govern the ownership of dogs. In order to obtain the proper license you will first have to go to your local police station and apply for permission to own a dog. You will then be given a form. Bring the form and your dog to one of the animal hospitals in Beijing for a brief medical examination. Following this, the animal must receive basic vaccination.

If all tests are cleared, you are then eligible to apply for a license, which means heading back to the police station.

The prices for dog licenses are high and require the owner to pay RMB5,000 for the first year of the license and then RMB2,000 every year thereafter. The application process should take around 10 days. Although, as with anything involving red tape in China, be prepared for a longer wait.

Animal Markets and Pet Care
Beijing Banlu Pet Hospital
Yuyan Hutong No. Jia 6, Xicheng District. In front of Guanyuan Market. For veterinary checkups.
Open 9 am-10 pm, tel: 6616-2134

Xiwu International Horse Club
Office: City Hotel, No. 4 Gongti North Road
Open 9 am-5 pm, tel: 6500-7799 ext 1107
Ask for Mr. He

Beijing Animal Shelter
Junzhuangzhen, Mentougou District, a half-hour car drive from the Longquan Hotel. Tel: 6081-0819
Dr. Dai Shu
24-hour emergency service
BP: 6491-1166 hu 8771

Beijing Kangkang Pet Health Center
Branch No.1
East Second Ring Road, Jinsong Xikou, east of Jinsong Pharmacy, Chaoyang District
Open 8:30 am-10 pm; 24-hour emergency service available, tel: 6770-0039

Guanyuan Market
South of Chegongzhuang subway station stop, along the Second Ring Road.

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