Tibetan Mastiff
In China, purebred Tibetan Mastiff dogs command high prices. Image: Flickr /CC by kjunstrom

In some areas of China, the rise in popularity of the Tibetan Mastiff dog is both an economic boom and animal welfare concern. For centuries, the Tibetan Mastiff was considered the protector of Tibet. Now, new rich are paying as much as $600,000 for purebred Tibetan Mastiff dogs, which is raising the concern of animal-welfare activists.

The history of the Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff dogs were, at one point, considered a holy animal. A Tibetan Mastiff is considered a sign of both home and security. The dog breed is huge, with some animals easily approaching 180 pounds. Many Tibetan Mastiff dogs have been cross-bred, and finding true purebreds is difficult. Some dog breeders even go so far as to poach purebred Tibetan Mastiff dogs.

Keeping a Tibetan Mastiff in China

For many years in China, the Communist Party banned the ownership of dogs as pets. The animals are considered “bourgeois” and a status symbol. Though there is no longer a ban on animal ownership, it costs more than $100 to license a dog, and the registration process can take months. Dogs must be registered with the neighborhood committee and police security bureau. The dog also requires identification paperwork that includes passport photos, a registration document, copy of the property title or lease and a yearly renewal. These regulations and costs, on top of the several hundred thousand dollar cost of purchasing a Tibetan Mastiff, makes owning the pet an expensive proposition.

Pet or status symbol

Though the Tibetan Mastiff is usually considered a very kind and friendly animal, many of the wealthy owners and breeders that deal in Tibetan Mastiffs view them as more than pets. For example, the couple that purchased Yangtze River Number Two, a Tibetan Mastiff, for $600,000 usually keep him in a cage. The International Centre for Veterinary Services in Beijing speaks loudly against the obsession with Tibetan Mastiffs. The Centre notes that most of these “pets” are kept in cages and put on display more than treated like pets. Breeders and owners dispute this claim, pointing out that keeping a Tibetan Mastiff takes extensive care.


Global Times

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