It has often happened in China that buying a dog can turn into a nightmarish experience. The same little puppy that looked so lively in the shop window would suddenly become sick beyond help and die. The front page of the Beijing Morning Post today features a harrowing investigation into the dirty secrets of the pet dog market in China.
The story begins with a certain madam Wang who last month bought a puppy of around 2 months at Xinguanyuan market (新官园市场) close to Zizhu Bridge (紫竹桥) in Beijing. Four days later, the puppy was dead. At the time when I bought him, says madam Wang, he looked like a normal little puppy, very energetic in his cage. But just two days later, he started vomiting and coughing. Madam Wang took him to the vet right away, and found to her great consternation that her new puppy was infected with canine distemper virus as well as canine parvovirus, which had already affected the dog’s nervous system. The veterinarian gave the dog next to no chance of surviving, and advised euthanasia. Madam Wang phoned up the man who sold her the dog, asking why he had sold her such a sick dog, but he was unrepentant, replying merely, all animals die.
Thinking back to when she bought the dog, doubts started to appear in madam Wang’s head. She had initially insisted that she first wanted to take the dog to the vet for an examination, but the man selling her the dog insisted that this would be a waste of money, and that the dog might be infected with all kinds of germs at the vet. When he sold her the dog, he said, see, this dog is alive and well, if you buy it now its no longer our responsibility.
What happened to madam Wang also happened to madam Zhang and madam Su and many others – none of the dogs they bought at Xinguanyuan or Liyuan (梨园狗市) markets lasted more than a week.
The dogs that are sold in these markets all come the various dog breeding spots (狗场) in Beijing, each of which can have upwards of a thousand dogs. Conditions at these breeding spots, as the Beijing Morning Post found out, are downright horrible. The dogs are kept in very unhygienic and very crowded conditions, and as one of the dog breeders (a Mr Wang) told the newspaper, its simply impossible that there are not a lot of infected dogs there, as infections spread rapidly. Because of cost pressures, the dogs’ cages are not disinfected every day, and even when a disinfectant is used, the dose is diluted. Don’t even think about disinfecting every dog every day, says Mr Wang, we simply don’t have the ability to give the dogs a better environment. Yet because dogs are infected with all kinds of illnesses at a very young age at these spots, the owners have to sell them fast.
If a dog worth between 2,000 and 3,000 yuan is found to be ill, it would be given a blood serum short, and it might then be sold for 800 to 1,000 yuan. If the disease is serious, the dog will go for as little as 500 yuan. According to Mr Wang, the breeders would ordinarily not try to conceal the state of the dogs to the markets, as the people who sell the dogs know what a sick dog looks like. But because they reason that nobody would buy a dog that’s too cheap, they maintain the normal price. And as obviously no-one would buy a dog that looks sick either, the dogs would be injected with a very potent monoclonal antibody therapy injection that would make them leap and frisk about (活蹦乱跳) for a whole week. After this time, they would invariably succumb to the infections. As the sellers know that the dogs will die anyway, they hit them up with the drugs and then hope to sell them as soon as possible.
As part of the paper’s investigation, the Beijing Morning Post reporter phoned up the Beijing Animal Hygiene Control Office (北京市动物卫生监督所) to ask if they knew about all this. The person on the other side assured the reporter that they constantly received complaints from citizens on this issue, but that there currently are no plans to introduce relevant laws and regulations and penalties to do anything about it. When, you might ask, will be a good time?
Links and sources
Beijing Morning Post (“一周狗”背后的利益链)