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Revered dogs under threat in Tibet
by Nick Mays


THE HOLY dogs of Lhasa are under threat of extinction in their own country due to a bureaucratic dictate foistered upon the Tibetan population by the Communist Chinese authorities.

The Lhasa apso, like all dogs in the capital Lhasa and throughout Tibet, must be registered by law or destroyed.

"To ensure that dogs are kept in confinement we have introduced a new licensing system," said bureaucrat Zhang Maofeng. "So far virtually no one has complied, so to ensure that the environment is properly regulated we have ensured there are no wild dogs anymore."

Thousand of dogs have been destroyed under the harsh new rule – on strays and unregistered pets alike.

To practising Tibetan Buddhists – who make up about 40 per cent if Lhasa’s population –the destruction of strays is a sacrilege, which violates the cycle of reincarnation. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the soul, especially the soul of a high lama, is frequently reborn in a dog as the last stage before becoming human.

"We regard this as being as bad as killing a human being, because the dog is nearest to us in reincarnation," said Setrar Tsering, a Lhasa resident. "Dogs are very faithful to us and we are very fond of dogs. Even people on pilgrimage will bring food to feed the strays along the way."

The dogs gave been fed by generations of residents, despite their reputation as being viciously territorial and, in many cases, rabid. The Chinese authorities see dogs in Tibet in the same way as they view them throughout China - as a threat to public safety and "harmful to the image of the city".