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Andy's little Pomeranian, Bubu, gets her first haircut at Sweet Pethouse.
China relaxed its one-child policy in 2014, but not many people know that a similar policy still applies in Shanghai — if your “child” happens to be a barking member of the four-legged variety, that is.
With the rapid growth of China’s pet economy — it was valued at an estimated US$25 billion last year — it’s more important than ever to understand not only the rules and regulations covering our furry family members, but also the amazing services available in every neighborhood that will make your life that much easier.
Rules and regulations
Everyone knows that rules exist when it comes to having pets in Shanghai — it’s the same in any major city — but not many seem to know the specifics.
Basically, in terms of your standard household pet, restrictions apply mostly to dogs. Each dog must be registered and licensed with the city, and an annual fee applies which varies depending on where you live.
Dogs are then required to have annual vaccinations, which only cost around 60 yuan (US$8.75), and a chip implanted, also about 60 yuan.
Each household is only allowed to register one dog, which technically puts a limit on the number of dogs one can raise.
To register your dog, head to your nearest police station with your ID card, property certificate or lease contract, details about your dog, and a frontal picture plus pictures of any special characteristics.
When it comes to cats, no such restrictions apply, and they are not required to undergo vaccinations, although it is highly recommended.
Fines ranging from 20-500 yuan may be dished out in several circumstances, but they’re easy to avoid.
When walking your four-legged friend, a leash should always be used, and it cannot be more than 2 meters in length.
On top of that, large dogs need to be fitted with a muzzle. Walkers must pick up any of their dog’s, er, droppings.
Your yap-happy dog could attract a fine of up to 500 yuan if you fail to rectify any noise issues after an initial warning. This depends solely on whether the barking annoys your neighbors and a complaint is made.
Also, keep in mind that dogs are not allowed to be taken into public spaces including malls, schools, hospitals, restaurants or hotels, and they are also not welcome on public transportation.
They may, however, ride in taxis if the driver agrees first.
Neighborhood pet stores
Many current or potential pet owners are unaware that friendly neighborhood pet stores are located literally all over Shanghai, and they offer a myriad of services that can make the life of the pet owner much easier.
One of the key services some don’t know about is the pet hotel concept, where your cat or dog can stay and be looked after while you’re out of town, or even during the day while you’re at work. The service isn’t as expensive as you might think — my little Pomeranian, Bubu, can stay overnight for 60 yuan, or during the day while I’m at work for just 30 yuan. This includes food and a one-hour walk with the other dogs, which is great for socializing and exercise.
Wang Hao, the owner of my local, Sweet Pethouse, believes that services offered are expanding as Shanghai gains more and more pet lovers.
“Originally pet stores were just a place where you could buy a cat or dog, but now it’s really diverse,” he told me.
“Due to the fast pace of urban life, pet shops are required to provide more comprehensive services such as foster care, pick-up and drop-off, food delivery and supplies, and pet grooming.”
Wang said that the number of pet owners in Shanghai, as compared with Western cities, is still quite low.
“But Shanghai people’s attitudes are changing, and more and more believe that human beings and animals are equal and should exist in harmony.”
Foster or rescue, don’t buy
If you’re thinking of getting a pet in Shanghai, consider fostering or adopting instead of buying.
Lee-Anne Armstrong from Second Chance Animal Aid Shanghai said there are already a lot of animals in need of temporary or new homes, and that unregulated breeding poses many problems.
“Pets are abandoned when people don’t put enough thought into what it means to raise an animal before bringing one home,” she told me.
“It’s important to first understand a pet’s daily care and long-term needs and decide if you’re willing to bring them into your home as a permanent family member. Pets are very rewarding, but they require a dedicated investment of your time and money.”