Pet ownership

Off the Leash: Why are Pet-Friendly Spaces So Rare in China?

Dog ownership in China is booming, but finding inclusive spaces for animals remains a tall order in most cities

Ever since Su Shan adopted Tangdou, a miniature poodle puppy weighing around 4 kilograms, just over a year ago, she feels she has “said goodbye to most forms of public transportation.”

That’s because in Qingdao, the picturesque seaside city in eastern China’s Shandong province where Su lives, dogs are banned from public transport (and taxis without the consent of the driver); as well as libraries, museums, memorial halls, sports venues, beaches, government offices, hospitals, and schools.

Even where there are no specific regulations, Su has been turned away from restaurants and farmers’ markets for bringing her dog, and has gotten used to calling up various venues to ask if Tangdou is allowed before she visits—and getting rejected. “Even when I put a leash and a diaper on her, a lot of people object,” Su tells TWOC. “They think the dog will attack, no matter its size.”

Dog ownership in China has boomed in the last two decades: There were 36.2 million people with dogs in 2021, according to a study by research firm Pethadoop, an increase of 260,000 from 2020. Businesses designed for doggy friends have flourished in tandem: Today, China’s pet food industry alone is worth a whopping 200 billion yuan.

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Off the Leash: Why are Pet-Friendly Spaces So Rare in China? is a story from our issue, “Public Affairs.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Dragos C. Cacio

Dragos is the marketing director at The World of Chinese as well as a contributing author, documentary director/producer and coffee enthusiast. He is well versed digital economy, tech industry and paid media.

author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

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