The 'One Dog' Policy: Because It Worked So Well for Humans


The local government in Beijing is imposing a new "one dog" policy in an effort to combat an outbreak of rabies. In a country where something like 97 percent of dogs are unvaccinated, this solution seems both excessively stringent and not stringent enough. But it may be preferable to the Yunnan Province policy of beating dogs to death as their owners are walking them without even bothering to check for a vaccination certificate. A.P. notes that Chinese attitudes toward dogs, which used to be seen as "a bourgeois affectation" and "hunted as pests," are evolving, which helps explain why the random killings of 50,000 or so aroused broad popular outrage. When I was in China a few years ago, a fellow traveler described a market in Gunagzhou that illustrated the changing status of canines: It sold dogs and cats for pets alongside dogs and cats for food. I suspect the pets get moved to the food section if they don't sell fast enough.

Responding to the "one dog" policy, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, tells A.P. "the focus should be on rabies vaccination rather than a limitation on the number of dogs in a household," which makes sense to me. But Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, welcomes the "one dog" policy, saying, "It's sad that it comes to this, but for the dogs' sake, restricting people to one dog stops impulse acquisition, encourages better care and will reduce the numbers who are suffering on the streets."

Really? Since China's "one child" policy (combined with the preference for boys) leads to the abandonment of baby girls, it seems to me that the "one dog" policy will have a similar result for dogs, unless we think people are more sentimental about their pets than they are about their children. The restriction is also apt to increase the number of  dogs sold as food instead of pets. Does PETA think it's better to be eaten than beaten?

For that matter, how can PETA approve of pet ownership at all? If a chicken slaughterhouse is akin to Auschwitz, surely keeping a dog is akin to slavery. To respect your dog's rights, don't you have to at least give him the option of leaving rather than keeping him locked up? Presumably not, since that would tend to "increase the numbers who are suffering in the street."