Has China’s One-Child Policy Bred a Generation of Dog Lovers?
People in Shanghai fucking love dogs, maybe even more than they love themselves. Walk down the street in China’s biggest city and you might see heiresses’ Chihuahuas getting facial scrubs, lawyers adjusting their poodle’s distressed jeans, a Yorkshire terrier with a pink Mohawk, or a couple feeding their corgi cupcakes outside a tea shop.
But what’s motivating the people of Shanghai to treat their dogs like extras in a Katy Perry video? Ask around and you get the impression that lots of locals are turning to their pups to fill a one-child-policy-shaped hole in their lives. It’s amateur psychology of the most amateurish kind, sure—but when you see a dog dressed up in little booties being pushed around in a stroller it’s hard to escape the conclusion that many Chinese people are turning themselves into surrogate bitches.
To tap into the city’s hound obsession—and to max out my phone’s memory with pictures of dogs wearing sneakers—I decided to head to the annual Shanghai International Dog Expo.
First I met Greg Li, Vice President of the Shanghai International Trade Promotion company, which organized the event. Sitting next to a board displaying the tagline, “My dog. My family. My life,” he explained that his event now attracts 50,000 people over five days, compared to 20,000 two years ago. He said unofficial stats put dog ownership rates here at around 12 percent of households, which would mean there are well over 1.1 million pet dogs in Shanghai, not including the nomadic armies of strays.
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Stolen Puppy Photography
A few years ago, Florida-based photographer Mary Lundberg decided to spread some awareness about abused canines by crafting portraits of the adorable animals she met while working at a shelter. When she put them online, however, they got stolen by strangers.
Celebrity Dogs of America
Last weekend, I attended America’s Family Pet Expo in Costa Mesa, California, which attracts thousands of people for a host of reasons: they love pets, they volunteer with rescue organizations, or they’re interested in buying their cats some quality business cards. One of the biggest draws, though, was the celebrity pet event—a showcase of trained dogs and cats who act in popular TV shows.
Like normal, non-dog-dominated events, the expo had its own black market: shortly after I stepped into the long admission line with the rest of the non-celebrity pets and humans, I got approached by a sketchy, nervous-looking guy who mumbled at me, “You guys want to buy some passes?” Yes, this man was a Pet Expo scalper. I bought a pass.
Although I was primarily there for the celebrity pets, there was no shortage of other entertainment. While walking through the expo, I watched several rounds of dachshund racing, pet an 18-pound rabbit, and spotted more than a few dogs who were better dressed than I was.
Your Dog Is Full of Dirty Diseases
Illustration by Mimi Leung
Recent research has shown that sharing an ice cream cone with your dog or letting your cat nap on your face isn’t just unhygienic, it could kill you, shit-for-brains, so cut it out. A study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases in November reported that zoonotic infections—diseases transmitted between animals and humans—are on the rise, and some will make you so sick death will be almost certain.
These sorts of ailments are spread by parasites, fungi, bacteria, and viruses that originate not from pigeons, rats, and other varmint scum, but from within the warm bodies of our beloved household pets. According to Michael Day, lead author of the report and a professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Bristol, “as dogs and cats have moved from the barn to the bedroom, the potential for disease spreading to humans increases.” Michael predicts that the next global health threat could be a pet-borne zoonotic superbug.