Chinese state media is reporting that China is drafting its first law to protect animals from abuse, which could see serious violators end up in jail.
The draft, which will be published in August to solicit opinions from the public, covers violations such as abusing and abandoning pets, the English-language Global Times said.
Severe violators could be sent to prison, while lighter punishments would include fines and detention of fewer than 15 days, according to the report. It did not specify the jail terms that might be applied under the law.
Once the draft has been finalised, it would have to be approved by the National People's Congress, the country's parliament, before taking effect.
Animal welfare is not traditionally highly valued in Chinese culture, but improvements in the standard of living have led many, especially in the urban middle classes, to give it a higher priority.
"Animals and pets have the right not to be scared, hurt or killed by human beings," the report cited Chang Jiwen, a social law expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying.
Chang said the draft law stressed the importance of animals' right to life, a sound environment, and good physical and mental health, the report said.
Local media occasionally report on instances of animal cruelty. In the northern city of Hanzhong in May, about 30,000 dogs were rounded up and killed indiscriminately after a rabies outbreak.