China’s One-Week Dogs

By Mike Devlin on Wednesday, November 6, 2013
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“Happiness is a warm puppy.” —Charles M. Schulz

In A Nutshell

As the Chinese move to acquire pets, merchants have begun selling “counterfeit” dogs—hapless, inbred mongrels dyed and subjected to horrible surgeries to make them resemble expensive purebreds. Even worse are “week dogs”—sickly puppies given blood transfusions, painkillers, and stimulants to perk them up long enough to sell. The pups are called “week dogs” because that is how long they generally live.

The Whole Bushel

China’s track record toward dogs is dismal at best. The consumption of canines has dissipated somewhat over the years, but they are still regularly eaten. More recently, the emerging middle class has come to see dogs not as appetizers, but as pets. Unfortunately, this has led to a black market where the lives of innocent animals are a commodity.

Chinese merchants selling dogs use any manner of schemes to pull in the cash. At their most innocent, mutts might be passed off as infinitely more valuable purebreds. This is relatively easy when the dog is still a tiny puppy, but gets progressively more difficult as it ages. Various methods are used to change a dog’s appearance. A plain white dog might be dyed to turn it into a Dalmatian, and a mutt might be shaved and have its skin cruelly stretched to resemble a shar-pei.

The most horrible circumstance of this market is the so-called “week dog,” an inbred puppy riddled with diseases like distemper and parvovirus. The merchant gives it a blood transfusion, stimulants, and painkillers, which will liven up the pup for a few days. Soon enough, the animals sicken and die (typically within a week). When the indignant pet owner returns to confront the merchant, the owner is the one who is blamed. After all, the puppy has died due to bad care. Some vendors travel, so that by the time their dogs are exposed, they’ve long since moved on to the next town.

There is almost no regulation on the pet trade in China, and likely the closest thing a dissatisfied customer can get to justice is a free replacement dog. Buying a puppy on the streets is purely a case of buyer beware. Without asking for veterinary records and vaccinations, one should probably expect grief.

Show Me The Proof

Beijing Today: Perils of shopping for the perfect pooch
NY Times: As Chinese wealth rises, pets take a higher place