Animals suffer as pet transport firms enjoy fat profits, lax regulatory environment

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A Chinese pet owner recently posted on Weibo about the tragic death of her golden retriever, Siri. The woman claimed that she had paid a Guangzhou pet consignment company 2,600 yuan ($401) to fly Siri from Nanjing to Guiyang. But without telling the owner, the company decided to transport Siri by road, a decision which led to the dog dying from heat stroke during the journey. Siri was two years old.

After admitting what it had done, the company presented two options to compensate Siri’s owner: a 6,000-yuan cash payment or a new dog. But after a week, the company appeared to change its mind, blaming the incident on the actions of an ex-employee.

According to the China 2021 January-June Pet Economy Industry Development and Market Research Analysis Report, nearly 70 percent of Chinese consumers have had or currently own pets, with another 10.8 percent planning on doing so in the near future. The growing number of pet owners has pushed the development of a large range of pet consignment services. Yet the services lack proper oversight and regulation, meaning that stories like Siri’s are sadly not uncommon.

Under Chinese law, pets are currently regarded as goods, with any relevant compensation owed to owners based on the converted value of the specific goods. While the protection of animals almost solely focuses on wild animals covered under the Wild Animal Protection Law, pet consignment is only mentioned in the China Civil Aviation Passenger Baggage Transportation Rules. Other situations are only covered by the relevant provisions of the Civil Code cargo transportation contract and the Road Cargo Transportation and Station Management Regulations.

In spite of the small number of regulations, many businesses still choose not to comply because of the very low cost of violating the rules when compared with the profits they can make.

According to a lawyer from Beijing Jingshi Law Firm, the company involved in the death of Siri violated the Civil Code as well as the Consumer Protection Law because it broke the agreement it had signed with the dog’s owner –– meaning that there is a case for compensation. The company also allegedly infringed the terms of the Animal Epidemic Prevention Act.

Siri’s case has now been passed to the market supervision department of Huadu District in Guangzhou, which is now investigating the incident.