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China’s Fledgling Animal-Rights Movement Takes Shape

Dogs that were rounded up in Nanjing, China
Dogs that were rounded up in Nanjing, ChinaPhotograph by China Photos/Getty Images

In his book Citizen Canine (PublicAffairs, 2014), science writer David Grimm links the rise of the 19th century and early 20th century movement opposing “animal cruelty” in the U.S. to the then-novel practice of keeping dogs and cats as inside pets, enabled by such recent inventions as flea and tick medicines and kitty litter.

China is still a place whose newspapers report that government employees beat unregistered dogs to death on the street and bury alive stray mongrels seen as nuisances. Meanwhile, China’s rising urban middle-class is increasingly embracing pet ownership, spending 7.84 billion yuan ($1.27 billion) on pet care in 2012. Beijing alone is home to more than 1 million pet dogs.