Dog and Cat Stories: Who to Believe When Pet Shopping

0414_featureIt’s natural to look for companionship when we get to a new city, and it makes sense if we make up our mind to get a pet. It is not so tough to find a shoe manufacturer in Dongguan, but buying a healthy pet can be a bit more of a challenge.

Three months ago, American Ashley Percifield got her first dog in China from a pet store in Dongguan. Unfortunately her little dog got very sick after only a week in her new home. The vet told her it was distemper, a measles-like virus common to dogs, and that her puppy had about a 30 percent chance of surviving.

Ashley, whose little dog two days earlier was happily tagging along wherever she went, was devastated. She ended up spending one month and more than RMB 5,000 (six times what she paid for the puppy) at the veterinarian hospital.

Mainly there are two “pet streets” in downtown Dongguan, and they are pretty close to each other. One is on Da Xi Road in Guancheng, the other is on Guancheng’s Xinhe North Road. If you hope to buy little creatures, the first one is a better choice. It’s a long narrow alley with about ten pet stores lining both sides. Animal lovers can find turtles, fish, lizards, hamsters, birds, bunnies and puppies. It’s more like a pet fair where you can haggle as loud as you can.

The second pet street, easier to find by taxi, sells mostly dogs and cats. You can also find more than ten pet stores lining one side of the road with cages of animals in front of their doors to draw the attention of pedestrians. They sell cats and dogs of popular purebreds with prices varying from RMB 1,000 to 10,000, as well as mixed breeds, but at a much cheaper price.

Sometimes they will just feed the dogs some chemicals to make them act lively before the sale, but those poor little creatures die soon enough after you bring them home.

Ask a local and these are the two referrals to expect, but are they the best choice? Some pet owners have a different story to tell. Like Selina Zhang from Chengdu, Sichuan, who is now living in an affluent neighborhood in Nancheng and has owned two miniature pinschers. She got one of them from Chengdu, the other one was delivered from Shanghai by her old neighbor. She is an avid dog lover and regularly goes out to walk her dogs with many other dog-loving buddies.

When asked if she would buy dogs from pet stores in Dongguan, she shook her head for five seconds. “I will never trust a pet store here to buy a dog, nor will any of my friends,” she said. She began to seem a little unhappy as if she was going to go through an ordeal of some kind.

“The dogs that [pet sellers] get are usually from Northern China and they can’t actually guarantee the health status of most. Sometimes they will just feed the dogs some chemicals to make them act lively before the sale, but those poor little creatures die soon enough after you bring them home. In our words, those are ‘one-week dogs,’ which means usually they don’t last one week after you buy them.”

0414_feature_dog and cat storiesHad it not been for some good work by an accredited vet in Guancheng, Ashley’s pooch would have fit into this category of unfortunate pups. For her it wasn’t about the money. “It’s the cruelty and scam I can’t put up with. The dog was actually sick before I bought it. Why were they lying to me?” she said. The resentment almost pushed her to picket in front of the store to call on other people to boycott. In the end she settled for her now healthy pooch, though she says they are both pretty much traumatized from the experience.

After several rounds of inquiry, the search turned up with almost all the pet stores that sold dogs posted signage behind the cashier that read, “we are not responsible for the pet once it is out of the store.” The phrase “One-week Dog” popped into mind immediately.

“I ensure you the dogs are from my friend’s breeding farm, much safer than those from the North,” swore the store operators. When asked if they can guarantee the health of the dogs, their answers were mostly, “no one can be 100 percent sure that your dog will always be OK after you take it home. Bad things happen sometimes.” Their advice was to take them to the animal hospital for tests. If nothing is wrong they said, “you buy the dog and pay for the tests; I will pay for the tests if the dog is actually sick.”

It sounded fair and square, but how many buyers would actually do that? The sellers were more assuring when it comes to selling cats. They would even offer a refund within a period of time.

Doctor Deng, the savior of Ashley’s puppy has this advice. “There are a few signs you can tell if a dog or cat is healthy before you make the purchase,” he said. “A healthy dog [or cat] is stocky in shape, has no eye discharge or anal infection.” Doctor Deng has practiced as a vet for more than a decade and has served customers from many other countries.

If nothing is wrong they said, “you buy the dog and pay for the tests; I will pay for the tests if the dog is actually sick.”

“The most common sickness a dog or a cat can get in Guangdong is skin disease due to the hot and humid climate here, and from March to July it is the likely time for canine distemper outbreak. So pet owners should keep their pets dry and clean and have them vaccinated in time to prevent these diseases,” he said. Upon the question of how to make the right purchase, he said that even if the buyer takes the puppy to a veterinarian hospital to check its health, there is no way to find out if the pet store has kept up with the animals vaccinations.

The idea of buying a pet is always exciting. When seeing so many pet stores filled with cats and dogs, many local people would go to the pet store they are familiar with or through their friends’ recommendation. For our new comers to Dongguan, it always helps to get acquainted with some local pet owners, because you will probably get more information from them than from what the pet sellers tell you.


Da Xi Road, Guancheng
中文: 莞城大西路宠物一条街
Xinhe North Road, Guancheng
中文: 莞城新河北路


Tianshan Stray Animal Rescue Center
Phone: 133 2689 8369, 8636 3611
Directions: Liusha North Rd., Shijie Town (Take Left on the Shayao Exit)
中文: 石碣镇沙腰管理区刘沙北路(沙腰出口左转)


Hours: 08:00 – 21:00
Address: No. 7, Heng Street, Qiantou Xing Rd, Dongcheng
Phone: 22204862/13712652673
中文: 邓惠群动物医院, 东城区堑头兴路横街七号