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Once Status Symbols, Purebreed Pets are Increasingly Abandoned in China

To many people outside of China, it is still considered a country of dog eaters. It may surprise them to hear that China’s market for pets and pets-related goods has tripled in the last five years, projected to reach 214 billion RMB by 2022. While dog eating is still practiced in certain areas, the trend is not to cook them, but rather to pamper them exorbitantly.

According to goumin.com — China’s largest pet information platform — as of 2018 there are 73.55 million urban pet owners in China, and they spent an average of 5,016 RMB per pet last year, up 15% from 2017.

In cities like Shanghai, pet specialty shops have sprung up at an impressive speed. On every street you can spot well-groomed dogs trotting at their owners’ heels. I’ve met people who have bought extra refrigerators to keep all their fancy imported pet food and snacks. A friend of a friend launched her own petite dog fashion line that sold tweed capes, rain coats, and tuxedo jackets. My social media continuously shows me pictures of friends showing off their furry companions. I’ve been frankly dazzled by the pet love all around me — it certainly seems like pets in China are living their best lives.

Yet out of the proverbial corner of my eye, I do notice a few friends who are involved in animal rescue frequently posting urgent messages on social media about cats and dogs that needed a forever home, or fundraised for rescue animal medical bills. It didn’t occur to me that this could be connected with the booming pet industry until I spoke recently with Larisa Ischenko, a localization specialist who does animal rescue in her spare time. “In the last three years I have done animal rescue, it has gotten so much harder,” Ischenko says. “There are more animals being rescued than ever, and fewer people willing to adopt them.

Even without being a pet owner, I knew purebreds are coveted status symbols and quite expensive — surely it’s not hard to find purebred pets a new home if they are being given away for free? And if Chinese pet owners are spending more on their pets than ever before, why do so many end up homeless? It turns out there’s a lot I didn’t know about the world of pets in China.

When I was growing up in Beijing in the early ’90s, pets were not very common. My aunt had a pet cat that ate her leftovers in a plastic dish under the dining room table and kept the mice away. Once denounced by Mao Zedong as “bourgeois vanity,” it wasn’t until the 2010s when pet ownership became extremely fashionable, causing the market for all things pets to boom.

Common local breeds quickly gave way to beautiful purebred animals. For cats, it was the Scottish Fold; for dogs, it was the Tibetan Mastiff, Samoy, Alaskan Malamute, Golden Retriever, Bulldog, Shiba Inu, Toy Poodle and more.

To read the full article (including the opinions of a PPAR volunteer interviewed for this article) please go to: https://radiichina.com/purebreed-pets-abandoned-china/