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Thousands of Tibetan mastiffs, once known as the world's most expensive dog breed, are now abandoned in Tibet and neighbouring provinces due to sharp decline in their prices.
The prized breed from the Himalayan region costing lakhs of dollars in Chinese market has been abandoned due to a decline in its price in Qinghai Province and Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, threatening local residents' safety and creating challenges for local animal shelters to accommodate them.
Breeders who wanted to make a fortune in the Tibetan mastiff market abandoned their dogs, which left thousands of dogs wandering around temples and villages, attacking people and killing livestock, state-run Global Times reported.
Tibetan Mastiff, a large Mongolian dog breed, originated with the nomadic cultures of Tibet, China, India, Mongolia and Nepal. It is used by local tribes of Mongolia to protect sheep from wolves, leopards, bears, large mustelids and tigers.
It lost popularity as more Chinese cities have banned large breed dogs, Jiang Hong, head of a Xi'an-based animal protection group who has paid attention to the homeless dogs in Tibet and Qinghai since 2012, told the daily.
Many cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have banned citizens from having dogs with the height of 35 centimetres or above.
A Beijing-based dog seller told the Global Times that the price of Tibetan mastiff has dropped sharply recently.
"A dog (Tibetan mastiff) with excellent appearance could be sold at three million yuan (USD 4.57 lakh) at the peak time. But the average price now is between 3,000 yuan and 30,000 yuan, (about USD 4600)," she said.
In recent years, Tibetan mastiff had emerged as a symbol of China's new rich. The new millionaires paraded these dogs with convoy of cars to display their status.
"The sharp decline in the price is one reason behind the rise in homeless Tibetan dogs, and the other is their strong fertility. Some local governments built a shelter to cage thousands of Tibetan dogs but after a few months, the number of dogs increased," Jiang said.
These Tibetan dogs would threaten local residents' safety as these dogs have not been vaccinated and they would also attack other animals in the areas, including snow leopard, which has been listed as a protected animal, Jiang said.
The local government in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai and a temple jointly spent 400,000 yuan on building a shelter for 1,200 homeless Tibetan dogs, and conducted sterilising operation on all female dogs to prevent fertility, the report said.
Dog shelters in these regions face financial and management difficulties since it costs much to raise Tibetan dogs, Jiang said, adding that local governments and animal protection organisations should join hands in dealing with the issue, including discussing the possibility of mercy killing of the untamed dogs.