Two dog owners pictured with their dogs after their pets had plastic surgery at a pet clinic in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Photo: CFP
Prosecutors in Tongzhou told the Global Times Wednesday they will further investigate the death of a Tibetan Mastiff which had been undergoing plastic surgery for a forehead skin lift.
Animal experts have said that performing plastic surgery for the aesthetic desire of owners and breeders is unfair to animals.
The plaintiff, surnamed Yu, the owner of a dog farm in Shunyi district, sued the defendant, surnamed Li, over the death of his dog at Beijing Yongchangjihe Animal Hospital, in Tongzhou on November 9, 2012. Li is not the vet who performed the surgery.
A report on the dog's death stated that it had died after its heart stopped due to a problem with anesthesia during the operation, the court's press release said.
Yu has demanded 880,000 yuan ($141,240) compensation for his dog's death, claiming he bought it from another dog breeder in March, 2012 at that price.
When it grew to nearly 2 years old and became suitable for mating, he decided to give it the skin lift to make it look better for breeding.
"The skin of my dog's head was very flabby, so I wanted to cut part of his forehead and straighten the skin. And also in this way, his hair would look longer as the rear part of the head will have more hair," said Yu. The surgery cost 1,400 yuan.
Yu said the forehead lift would make the dog look more attractive so he could make more profit.
"If my dog looks better, female dog owners will pay a higher price when they want to mate their dog with mine," he said.
"After the dog died, I went to an animal assessment clinic in the afternoon. The clinic kept some samples of the heart, and I paid to have the body cremated," Yu said.
Yu said it was the first time he tried to have a skin lift done, but some of his dogs had previously had surgery to make their ears become erect.
The extravagant prices paid for Tibetan Mastiffs have often hit the headlines in recent years, and they are seen as luxury status symbols for China's elite. They can also be vicious as they were originally bred as guard dogs.
A Tibetan Mastiff was sold for 20 million yuan in Pingdu, Shandong Province, according to news.iqilu.com in August 2012. In March 2011, a mastiff called Hong Dong was sold to a coal magnate in north China for 10 million yuan.
Yu said he has 30 dogs, and has been in the business for 15 years. Male dogs make money by mating with female dogs from other farms, and the owners pay from 30,000 to 300,000 yuan. His female dogs make money by giving birth to puppies, which can sell from several thousand yuan to several million yuan.
The defendant Li declined to comment Wednesday.
Animal welfare activists said they would never recommend plastic surgery for pets, let alone for the commercial trade.
"Any time you do surgery, you are going to deal with the healing of the tissue. It can lead to scarring and infection. We wouldn't recommend plastic surgery, which doesn't help improve the health or save the life," said Mary Peng, co-founder of the International Center for Veterinary Services.
Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association, said she is strongly against plastic surgery for animals.
"It's unfair. It only meets the aesthetic desire for the owner, completely ignoring the rights and interests of the dog. I am also against raising Tibetan Mastiffs in lowland cities like Beijing. They should be living on the plateau grassland areas. People shouldn't raise them here just for profit," said Qin.
Zhang Mingming, owner of two pet cats in Haidian district, said it both disrespects animals and cheats those who pay for the mating service.
"I would never let my pet undergo plastic surgery like that. It treats the animal like a toy instead of a living being," she said.
"And I think it's business cheating. The female dog's owner might want his dog to mate with him because he looks good and healthy, but in fact his looks are fake. It's irresponsible," she said.