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Chinese pet owners await Year of the Dog

Puppies are big business anytime, but likely to be even more so in the Lunar Year, which begins January 29.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 16:39 IST

Circus trainer Chen Hongyi has long taught poodles to bound through flaming hoops, but in this upcoming Year of the Dog, teaching the commands "sit," "beg," and "shake" will pay the bills.

Chen's Circus World Training School is among many pet-related businesses booming as pet ownership grows in popularity among increasingly prosperous urban Chinese.

Puppies are big business anytime, but likely to be even more so in the Year of the Dog, which begins Sunday with the start of the Lunar New Year.

......Man's best friend will be considered an even more auspicious buddy than usual, especially in cities like Shanghai, where about 106,000 dogs are officially registered, but unlicensed animals may swell that figure by several times as the Year of the Dog nears.           

Despite campaigns against traditional beliefs, for most of China's 1.3 billion people, the Year of the Dog is considered an especially lucky lunar year.

So this year, man's best friend will be considered an even more auspicious buddy than usual, especially in cities like Shanghai, where about 106,000 dogs are officially registered, but unlicensed animals may swell that figure by several times.

That's a big change from the early decades of communist rule when pet ownership was frowned on and dogs were clubbed to death in periodic campaigns against pests, and "capitalist running dog" became the ultimate insult.

Chen says increasing exposure to foreign ideas is a key reason for the rise in dog ownership.

The coming year might not be so lucky for the dogs themselves, though. Even people who don't really like pets may get a dog for the start of the Lunar New Year, hoping some luck will rub off on them.

Animal welfare advocates warn many pets could get dumped in coming weeks by owners grown disappointed, bored or unwilling to handle the responsibility.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 17:52 IST