Chen Zhao, a Ji'nan police officer, checks a dog owner's information through the new mobile application in Ji'nan, capital of East China's Shandong Province, in March. Photo: Courtesy of Ji'nan Public Security Bureau
At around 5 every morning before dog owners wake up to give their pets a walk, Chen Zhao is at their doorstep, virtually sniffing the air.
Chen, a police officer in Ji'nan, East China's Shandong Province, is tasked with issuing and checking dog licenses by using an app developed by the Ji'nan Public Security Bureau. It can take dog photos, check the serial number of their vaccine and verify dog owners' identity.
An electronic chip about a third of the size of a rice grain would be implanted in the animals' necks for first-time dog license applicants, Chen told the Global Times.
Ji'nan police also uses the app to inspect and punish dog owners for violations as well as record stray dogs' information. Ji'nan police captures around 1,000 stray dogs each year, and had issued licenses to 101, 681 dogs by the end of May.
The application, first-of-its-kind in China, could help police better deal with problems like dog bites - and take the pressure off police which has insufficient manpower to handle dog issues. Ji'nan police wants the application promoted in other cities.
Punish illegal owners
For managing pet dogs, local police has also introduced a penalty point system for dog owners. Three points would be deducted for failing to restrain dogs while walking them outside, and the penalty is slapped through the application.
If dog owners lose 12 points in two years, they need to attend classes to learn regulations on dog management organized by police, and get their dogs back only after they pass a test, Chen said.
Dog owners could also click the dog search function in the application to find lost pets that have a chip in the neck. Those who abandon their dogs will be fined 2,000 yuan ($305).
In the past several months, many cases of dog bite have been reported from across China. A suspected stray bit eight persons in a residential compound in Beijing this May, including a 5-year-old boy whose face was mauled, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
Chen said that dogs are more likely to attack people in spring and autumn when they are in heat.
"Now over 90 percent of the dog owners in Ji'nan have applied for licenses, and there are almost no strays in the city," Chen said.
Stray dogs remain a challenge for police. Chen said that the public security bureau's dog shelter cannot cope with an increasing number of strays captured by police. Many people flaunt their pet's pedigree by buying foreign dogs with tens of thousands of yuan and are reluctant to adopt those in shelters.
Rope in non-government sectors
To deal with the challenges, Ji'nan police has set up a stray dog management platform and roped in Shandong Taishan Small Animal Protection Center to for help.
Shi Zhengyi, the center's founder, told the Global Times that police have sent around 1,000 stray and unlicensed dogs to the center as of now.
"We also publish dog adoption notices and tips for keeping pet dogs to residents on the platform. We organized three dog adoption programs this year, and the last one saw 32 strays being adopted," Shi said.
Both Shi and Chen believe that cooperation between non-governmental animal welfare organizations and police is necessary in managing dog issues.
Dog owners tend to more easily accept suggestions when volunteers from organizations instead of police urge them to get licenses, Shi said.
Chen believes that Ji'nan's experience in managing stray and pet dogs, which has proved to be successful in the past several years, could be promoted in other cities in China.
Some cities including Beijing, Qingdao in Shandong Province and Bozhou in East China's Anhui Province plan to learn from Ji'nan's experience, and Bozhou had dispatched a team to Ji'nan as early as 2016, according to Ji'nan Public Security Bureau.
Newspaper headline: Pet Project