Lu Feiran|2024-02-28
Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?
Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?

A shopping mall near Suzhou Creek has set up an area especially for pets.

White-collar worker Evelyn Xu tool her Corgi Kang Kang to a Western-style restaurant in Qingpu District where she lives, assuming she would have to sit outside with her pet. To her surprise, the dog was allowed inside to sit in a high chair alongside her.

"Kang Kang was very happy, and the restaurant owner played with him," she said. "Other patrons were friendly, too. No one complained, which was a pleasant change from past experience."

Shanghai likes to style itself as a people-friendly city, and where people go, so go their pets.

One of the most widely discussed topics online nowadays is how to create a pet-friendly environment in a city that is home to more than 7 million dogs and 3.5 million cats.

Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?

A KFC franchise in Shanghai has set up a pet dining area outside, welcoming guests to bring their animals.

Lu Huiwen, general principal of Xiehe Education, submitted to the annual session of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference a proposal calling for Shanghai to become more pet friendly.

"When we carried out a survey on how to encourage more foreigners to take up work here, we found that the pet environment was an important factor," Lu said. "Being pet friendly actually reveals how inclusive a city is to both humans and animals."

One of the biggest concerns is this idyllic co-existence is access to public areas.

"Having a pet has become an important part of my social life," Xu said. "Through Kang Kang, I have met new friends who have dogs, and we like to get together on weekends. We are finding more places that we can go – including parks, greenbelts, flea markets and shopping malls."

The Bund Finance Center on the riverfront is probably the most pet-friendly mall in Shanghai. More than 100 restaurants there welcome pets. However, animals are not allowed to walk around interior on their own. Pet owners have to rent a trolley from an information desk to tote their dog or cat.

"The trolleys are equipped with a urinal pad, which is quite considerate," said Xu, who visited the mall once with Kang Kang. "But I felt he didn't like being confined to a trolley for too long."

Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?

At Bund Finance Center, trolleys are available at the information desk for pet owners to ferry cats and dogs through the mall.

Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?

At Bund Finance Center, a yogurt shop offers a menu especially designed for pets.

Different venues have different rules about pets, and rules can change.

"For example, there was a mall along Suzhou Creek that used to allow small dogs to walk in, but not anymore," Xu said. "I heard that there were some complaints and the mall changed the rule."

Louise Wang, a longtime pet owner, told Shanghai Daily that she feels improvements are needed in accommodating people and their pets.

"Complexes are quite passive about pet-related services, like pet shops or vet clinics," she said. "They may now boast that they allow pet in, but it's not as though that was a primary consideration when the complexes were first planned."

Wang said sometimes she doesn't know if a mall allows pets because they don't post clear signage about that.

"When I drive into an underground parking lot, there's no indication if the mall above allows pets, or if pets must be put in trolleys or, if so, where to rent a trolley," she said. "I remember being impressed by a mall in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, which had eye-catching 'pet friendly' signs at every entrance and a small area in the atrium catering to dogs."

What do people who don't have cats or dogs think about all this? Some aren't very happy, especially when poorly trained pets behave badly in public.

A netizen who uses the screenname "Sanwan" posted on the Xiaohongshu platform that she was at a mall next to the ancient Longhua Temple in Xuhui District when she saw a golden retriever urinating on the floor while its owner talked on the phone, unperturbed by such behavior.

"My husband went up and told him to clean up the mess, but he just walked away with the dog," she wrote. "As a dog owner myself, I fully understand why some public places reject pets. It's just because there are so many irresponsible pet owners."

In her submission to the advisory body, Lu suggested regulations be adopted to protect the rights of pets and owners, and to regulate their behavior.

"Without such a regulation, we may see conflicts between people who have pets and those who don't," she said. "For example, the government could provide uniform 'pets allowed' and 'no pets' signs for public places, so everyone will know what's permissible."

Lu also suggested that organizations experienced in dealing with animals, such as those involved in stray rescues and veterinary care, should use influence to improve pet management.

"We can start in international communities with issues such as pet adoption, registration and other services, and then promote successful strategies citywide," she said.

How to buy pet insurance in China?

A visit to the veterinarian can often be quite expensive, and buying pet insurance has become a popular way to reduce costs.

Pet insurance is available on various platforms. Some are official websites or apps of insurance companies; others are posts by third-party companies such as Alipay and WeChat Mini Programs.

On Alipay for example, a search for "pet insurance" (宠物保险) brings up a package jointly offered by Alipay and Zhong'an Insurance. The contract is available only in Chinese, so you should have someone versant in the language to explain the terms before signing up.

Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?

Various policy options come up in a search for "pet insurance" (宠物保险) on the Alipay app.

Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?

Two types of pet insurances are available: one is for veterinary services; the other covers liability. The policy also covers medicine fees at pet pharmacies.

Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?
Soul mutts: Should your dog be allowed to accompany you everywhere?

On the Alipay app, terms and conditions of pet policies are available only in Chinese. Those who can't read characters should get help with translation.

Such policies are similar to medical insurance plans for humans. The lower the deductible, the higher the premium, and premiums vary according to age, health status and animal breed. Some pet policies require proof of dog registration.

The insurance plans usually require a waiting period before benefits actually kick in, to prevent pet owners taking out policies after their pets become sick. The waiting periods vary, from 10 days for accident coverage, to 30 days for common diseases and to 90 days for more serious problems like cancer and oral disorders.

It's a good idea to talk to your vet before buying insurance, and if you have already a policy issued in a foreign country, make sure its coverage extends to China.

Suzhou Creek
The Bund
Longhua Temple
The Bund Finance Center