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The tradition of pets in China is very new, other than the songbirds you’ll see old-timers bring in cages to the parks or the crickets that are kept for fighting (and illegal betting). Only a decade ago pet dogs were technically illegal in Beijing. But this is China, and things change fast. You’ll see plenty of owners (or ayis) walking their dogs around the city, and the young and fashionable have taken eagerly to the pet game. There remain stories of people discarding their Chihuahua or Pekinese once they lose interest or trends change, simply leaving them on the street, and there’s no doubt that animal welfare is still not a problem here. But things are changing fast for the better, and young people in particular are beginning to actively protest animal cruelty – particularly the torture and slaughter of dogs for food.

Click here to learn more about the procedures and paperwork involved about importing a pet to Beijing. Think carefully about it, and base your decision on where you’ll be living. If you’ll be staying in a compound with a garden and quiet streets, then your dog will be fine. If you’re in a small apartment, you might want to consider leaving the dog back home with friends or family rather than put him through quarantine and keep him cooped up most of the day. One way around this is to have your ayi do the dog walking. You’ll need to check this with her first though, since some ayis are not used to dogs and may find this an unpleasant or even frightening experience. Cats, of course, tend to be fine anywhere. Remember that people living within the Fourth Ring Road are only allowed to own dogs that are under 35 cm tall (measured from shoulder height).

We strongly urge that you do not buy animals from people selling them on the street or in unregulated markets. Encouraging the trade just means more animals will be drugged, kept in tiny cages and starved. These animals also tend to be ill and many die shortly after being bought. Go to a proper pet shop, and make sure you see proper documentation of vaccinations, as well as get a feel for whether the animals are being well treated. Once you buy a pet, bring it to a vet and get it checked out immediately. Better yet, adopt a pet from Beijing Human and Environmental Education Center (BHAEEC), a non-profit organisation that does fantastic work in rescuing animals and is committed to helping increase awareness of animal care and eliminating animal abuse. They’re always looking for people to adopt an animal; Beijing Cat is another place where you can adopt rescued cats who have been spayed and vaccinated.

Dogs are not allowed in public parks, though in practice many people flout this law; in any case, keep your dog on a leash if you take them out. When they need a proper romp around, one option is the CoolBaby Pet Leisure Center in Chaoyang Park. There’s also a big dog park in Wangjing, near IKEA, and there are good kennels that make sure your pet is well fed and gets exercise should you go on vacation, say.

You’ll find basic cat, dog and fish food in supermarkets of a reasonable size; for more advanced products, talk to your vet or nearest pet shop. You’ll find that bigger flower shops often sell smaller pets like fish, turtles and birds if you’re thinking of going low-maintenance when it comes to animals. And you can rest assured that there are plenty of good vets around; try the nearest one to you from the listings below, or ask a friend to recommend one. Some offer training and other services as well. Pet ownership in Beijing is as much fun as anywhere else once you take a few precautions and adapt to big-city life.

CoolBaby Dog Theme Park

Dedicated dog space in Chaoyang Park with open ground, an “obstacle course” and plenty of other dogs to run around with, as well as a dog pool, training courses and even a boarding facility. A social hub for owners as well. RMB10 per person.

8am-6pm (winter), 8am-8pm (summer)
East Gate 7, Chaoyang Park, 1 Chaoyang Nanlu, Chaoyang
6500 3590

Wanjing Dog Park

Free park without too many frills, simply lots of green space and interesting trees for running around off the leash.

Jingshun Lu, south of U-Speed Go-Kart, Chaoyang

K.K. Animal Hospital

This facility, on top of regular veterinarian services, offers a 6,000 sqm kennel with full boarding facilities and space for dogs to exercise. They offer free pick-up, too.

9am-7pm
801-802 Pinnacle Plaza, Shunyi
8046 2358

International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS)

Possibly Beijing’s premier animal hospital, this English-speaking facility offers highly professional care in a full range of animal health needs, including dentistry. They also have prescription pet food, an excellent kennel service and a grooming salon.

Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 10am-7pm
13-16 Rongke Ganlan Chengshang Jie, Futongxi Dajie, Wangjing, Chaoyang
8456 1939
www.icvsasia.com

Doctors Beck and Stone Pet Health Care Center

This popular private chain offers an international level of pet care with 24-hour emergency service and highly-trained vets from both China and the West.

www.doctorsbeckandstone.com

24 hours
Unit 104, Tower B, Building 3, Hou Xiandai Cheng, Baiziwan Lu, Chaoyang
8774 8653

9am-7pm
Shop 0153, Tower B, Chaowai Soho, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang
5869 6401

9am-9pm
Unit 104, Bldg 7, Compound 9, Fangyuan Nanli, Chaoyang
8457 8233

24 hours
Shop LB05, Euro Plaza,99 Yu Xiang Lu, Shunyi
8046 2886

Coolbaby

See above for the dog park in the Chaoyang Park branch; otherwise this is an excellent chain of pet food stores with a wide range of food, toys, grooming products and the like.

10am-8pm
Rm 6, Bldg 14, Dongzhimennei Dajie, Dongcheng
8407 4198

10am-8pm
52 Gulouwai Dajie, Dongcheng
8411 0547

8:30am-6pm
Chaoyang Gongyuan Nanlu (inside the Chaoyang Park Tennis Center), Chaoyang
131 2111 1166

Pampers

As the name suggests, they’ll take good care of grooming and bathing – they also provide a full range of food, toys, etc. and offer kennel services.

10am-9pm
Building 1, Lakeview Place, Shayu Huanlu, Houshayu, Shunyi
8042 2281

Peking Pet Palace

All the TLC your best friend could ask for, with shaving, nail clipping and the like available, as well as bathing, plus cheap pet sitting and boarding.

8:30am-8:30pm
Red Sandalwood Courtyard, Laiguangying Beilu, Sunhe Xiang, Chaoyang
8459 2835

Yiya Pet Store and Hospital

All you could need in a pet store, plus hospital services and even puppies for sale.

9am-6pm (store), 9am-9pm (hospital)
34 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang
6552 6178

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