A Chinese district government is giving dog owners a stark choice: Get rid of your pets or we'll come to your home and kill them on the spot.
Even in a country where dog ownership is tightly regulated, the order issued this week by the Dayang New District in the eastern city of Jinan is extreme.
"No person is permitted to keep a dog of any kind,'' said the notice posted on gateposts around the community of mostly high-rise apartment blocks. "Deal with it on your own, or else the committee will organize people to enter your home and club the dog to death right there.''
Regional governments have killed stray animals before, but Dayang's order also covers dogs that have been registered and vaccinated.
Culls often follow outbreaks of rabies, a disease that kills about 2,000 Chinese each year, but the order cites only the maintenance of environmental hygiene and "everyone's normal lives'' as reasons.
People who answered calls Friday at the district government office said no one was available to discuss the matter.
However, an unidentified worker from the Dayang village committee interviewed by a local television station insisted the order was the will of the majority of the district's more than 1,000 residents.
"Dogs are always defecating all over the place and bothering people. A lot of people were complaining so we wrote a public notice to avoid a conflict,'' the man said.
The order underscores continuing weaknesses in China's legal system, particularly when it comes to police powers and private property protections. It also points to the lack of rules on pets in public, such as leash laws and fines for not cleaning up after them.
Lack of animal cruelty legislation
While China has laws protecting endangered species, it has yet to pass animal cruelty legislation.
Chinese often appear sharply divided between animal lovers and those who see dogs as a threat to the public.
The keeping of dogs as pets was effectively outlawed during the first decades of the People's Republic of China and was denounced by Communist leaders as a bourgeois affectation and waste of scarce resources.
Over the last 20 years, however, dog ownership has grown exponentially, despite continuing restrictions on large dogs in urban areas. A nascent animal rights movement has also sprung up, with dog lovers sometimes blockading trucks shipping dogs off to markets to be served to the relatively small percentage who eat their meat.