Shanghai sets one-dog limit to curb rabies

China's largest city, Shanghai, is setting a limit of one dog per family in an effort to gain control over the soaring pet population and curb rabies.

Cao Yi has already taken to walking her dogs at 11pm, hoping to avoid trouble with both neighbours and the authorities over her brown poodle and golden retriever. "I'm afraid one of the dogs might be taken away," she said. The new rule, which takes effect today, means either finding a new home for one of her pets or registering one with her parents.

The new pet ownership rules also cut the steep fees for dog registration, in the hope of bringing more undocumented animals on to the books, and require those walking their dogs to keep them on leads. Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou have imposed similar regulations in an attempt to bring rabies under control.

Occasional mass outbreaks of the disease – mainly in the provinces – have prompted culls of tens of thousands of dogs and sometimes protests from angry owners. But in most cases opposition takes the form of passive resistance; some Shanghai residents just send their dogs to stay with friends or relatives until it seems safe to bring them home.

Many first-time pet owners don't bother to neuter their animals and eventually abandon them when they grow tired of keeping them. Packs of strays can be seen in the city's suburbs.

A rapid rise in the pet population has brought a spike in rabies infections. About 2,500 people die of the disease each year in China. In big cities like Shanghai, home to 23 million people, police say they handle thousands of complaints about dog bites each year.

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