China reclassifies dogs as pets instead of livestock

China reclassifies dogs as pets instead of livestock
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China's Ministry of Agriculture issued new guidelines Wednesday that reclassify dogs as pets instead of livestock, part of the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilization and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been 'specialized' to become companion animals ... and they will not be regulated as livestock in China," the notice said.

The coronavirus is believed to have originated in horseshoe bats, which may have passed the disease to other wildlife species for sale in the markets of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.

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Following the outbreak, China banned the breeding, trading and consumption of wildlife.

The move to reclassify dogs was welcomed by animal welfare groups like Humane Society International.

"This draft proposal could signal a game-changer moment for animal protection in China," said Wendy Higgins, a Humane Society International spokeswoman, Reuters reported.

The group estimates that nearly 10 million dogs are killed each year in China for meat.

Shenzhen, in southern China, became the first city in the country to ban the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat last month, according to the BBC.

Updated: 9:30 p.m.