Living with a dog in Shanghai

People I meet are always asking me what it is like having a pet dog in Shanghai. While I had never had a dog before, I imagine that taking care of one in China is no more complicated than in my home country. In fact, it might actually be a bit easier. For example, when I was looking for my last two apartments, I never had a property owner say, ‘no pets’. At least from my experience, it seems like a pretty pet friendly place. Mine is no lapdog either. I have a huge almost 40kg golden retriever called Genki. He was such a sick little puppy when he was rescued, that after once glance, I could not say no when asked to help him. Now, he is family and I could not imagine life without him.

One of the most common questions is, what do you do when he gets sick? Well, I do as any pet owner does and take him to the vet. There are numerous recommended reputable vets in Shanghai. A trip to the vet anywhere is not something pets or owners enjoy but at least here in Shanghai many are very proficient in English (and other languages too) which makes the visit less stressful. They are also clean. Some are open 24 hours, have emergency services, pet ambulances, shops attached with accessories and supplies and even dog grooming services. It is important to think about where to take your pet. If you adopted a more senior animal, going somewhere with entry and exit facilities might not be so important. If they are younger, it probably is as you may not stay in China longer than the life of your pet.

Another common question is, who looks after him when you are not at home? After an early morning walk and sometimes a game of fetch if there is time, he is pretty happy sleeping on the couch while I am at work. He has his toys, treat dispensers and things to keep him occupied during the day too. When I get home, we go for a walk again, then it’s dinner, maybe a bit of TV and then I brush his teeth before saying goodnight. Not that much extra work. I’ve found having Genki is actually a great way to meet people in the neighborhood too. Other pet owners will stop and start up a conversation, as will parents with young kids who ask to pat him as well as older couples out enjoying the weather on nice days. There is also a WeChat group of dog owners from my community who meet up regularly for dog play dates.

There are however, some things that people do not always think about such as dog registration. Dogs need to be registered. This is a bit of an involved process and only one dog can be registered per address. Some locations have specific breeds that cannot be registered so it is best to check in advance. The process is generally the same everywhere but there may be some differences in weather part of it can be done online or not and if you need additional documents from the property owner to show you are allowed to have pets in your apartment.

Your dog will need to be chipped and vaccinated for rabies at a specific veterinary clinic. Not all clinics can do this for pet registration. You need to take your passport, rental agreement, registration fee (which is dependent on your location within the city and if your dog is neutered or spayed and can cost up to 500 RMB) and off course your dog for the rabies shot and chipping.

Once this is all complete, you can go register your dog at the local police station. Not all police stations can do this but not to worry, your local police station will be able to direct you to where to go to get this done.

Some locations in China are very strict with dog ownership and others are not. However, you are still required to register your dog. It’s better put a little effort into it than risking your dog being removed.

—Shane Goulding