The adoption of an emaciated, crippled police dog in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, has stirred heated online debate, generating calls for clarification about what can be done with stray animals and about the proper care of dogs working for police and firefighters, or as guide dogs.
A woman identified as Ying, a resident in Jinhua, recently complained on social media that she and her husband had been "mistakenly interrogated" by the police after the couple adopted a homeless dog on the street in June.
"We picked up the dog, a slightly crippled, emaciated German shepherd, when it was searching for food in the garbage near the Duohu police station," Ying said. "Feeling sorry for the dog, we brought it home and found no information on the collar on its neck."
After several days, local police officers summoned and interrogated the couple on suspicion of theft, as the animal is a police dog from the station, valued at 15,000 yuan (S$2,977).
They were released on a 5,000 yuan bail, pending further investigation.
In response, the police issued a statement saying the dog was used for daily security patrols, and that the couple is suspected of "stealing the valuable dog on the street".
Ying called on the police to release the surveillance video to clarify whether what they did should be defined as theft.
Yang Wenzhan, a lawyer at Beijing Zhongdun Law Office, said he is inclined to define the couple's action as salvation, rather than theft.
"The dog was found outside the control area of the police station. It was free ranging, with nobody looking after it. So the couple's action should not be classified as theft," Yang said.
He also called on the police to take better care of their dogs.