Safety issues, as well as noise and waste problems, have sparked a debate as to whether or not pets should be allowed at apartment buildings in Vietnam.
“Can anyone see whose dog is barking on the 20th floor? I’m sick and tired, yet I can’t sleep,” said a text message that pinged Anh Khue’s phone at midnight.
The text sparked a familiar litany:
“Yes! My child woke up and cried immediately,” said a message in reply.
“Dog lovers, please keep your windows shut. My head hurts so much I could die,” said another.
Then another, accusatorily: “It’s X’s dog. It stinks and its barking hurts my head. I can send you a recording if you don’t believe me…”
The stream of text messages continued.
Khue, 32, who lives in Hanoi, said these kinds of conversations are regular in her neighborhood’s group chat.
Like many apartment complexes in Hanoi, Khue’s place allows pets.
All the building’s management board asks is that “public order and hygiene be maintained” and that “other households not be affected” by the domesticated animals.
Chip off the shoulder
Earlier last year, when Khue and her husband first moved in, they looked into the matter carefully as they wanted to bring their dog Chip with them.
Chip was a gift to Khue from her husband 6 years ago, but raising a 20 kg dog in a building with nearly 300 families brings with it numerous issues.
Not only does Khue spend much of her free time constantly vacuuming the apartment (usually at least once a day, but often more), she also has to close all her windows, doors and balconies when she goes to work every morning because lonely Chip barks nonstop when the house is empty.
Pet owners who don’t fully close up their apartments often face complaints of unpleasant pet odors as well.
Because the apartment complex has many small children in it, Khue muzzles her dog when she brings it in and out of her building. Khue says that parents often tell their children to stay away, while shooting her and her dog mean looks.
Chip, a dog of a woman named Khue in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Khue
“So disgusting,” some whisper under their breath.
Khue said her relationships with her neighbors have ups and downs, often related to accusations around the building of who let their dog defecate in public.
After two months, Khue and her husband left Chip to live at their parents’ house.
“As someone who raised a dog, I still support a ban on raising pets in apartment complexes, for the sake of both our neighbors and our pets,” Khue said.
Duc Hieu, 43, from Thanh Xuan District, said he has grown all too weary to all the debates regarding dogs and cats at his apartment complex.
In mid-2022, the building’s management board proposed extra fees of around VND100,000-300,000 ($4.21-12.64) a month for families with dogs and pets. The money would be slated for public purposes, including cleaning and renovating public structures.
Hieu, however, vehemently opposed the suggestion, saying that dog owners would weaponize the extra fee to justify the disturbances their pets bring.
“Besides, I don’t see how I would benefit from this extra fee,” Hieu said.
A management board member at a Hanoi building said their complex did not even have a playground for children, let alone infrastructure for dogs and cats.
“The law does not ban pets in apartment complexes, and all that the management board can do is mediate conflicts,” said the board member.
But sometimes such conflicts cannot be solved internally and get taken to the courts.
Vo Thi Dung, 39, told the Binh Chanh District People’s Court last year that she was attacked at her apartment building by a dog owned by 68-year-old Tuyet.
Tuyet lives in the same apartment complex.
Dung alleged the dog bit her, causing bloody injuries to her thigh.
The attack was witnessed by two security guards at the scene. Dung went to get a rabies shot. Tuyet did not apologize to Dung, nor offer any compensation.
Tuyet later moved to District 7, forcing Dung to track her down, just to monitor the dog’s health and see if it had any disease.
Dung decided to sue both Tuyet and the building’s management board, believing the board had done nothing to deal with issues regarding pet problems at the apartment complex. She wanted VND100 million as compensation.
After the case was brought to the Supreme People’s Court, Tuyet agreed to compensate Dung with VND10 million, while the management board said it had done everything right in accordance with the building’s regulations and Vietnamese law regarding pets in apartment complexes.
The board nevertheless agreed to compensate Dung with VND10 million.
Dung then dropped her suit against the board, but continued pursuing Tuyet for a total compensation of VND80 million.
To pet or not to pet?
Nguyen Dai Hai, a lawyer with the Fanci law firm, said raising pets is considered by Vietnamese law similar to animal husbandry, which is legal.
However, certain requirements must be met, including the completion of rabies shots, the maintenance of a clean environment, and the prevention of any danger to neighbors. If one’s pet incurs damages to anyone’s health or property, compensation is required, said Hai.
Meanwhile, the Law on Animal Husbandry states that “pets include cattle, poultry and other animals in animal husbandry.”
At the same time, a governmental decree states that “cattle and poultry must not be raised within apartments,” Hai said.
But another legal document on apartment management by the Ministry of Construction stated that dogs and cats are not classified as either cattle or poultry.
Therefore, raising dogs and cats in apartments is legal, Hai said, adding that citizens should cooperate with buildings’ management board to create their own regulations regarding pet-raising.
For example, Hai suggested that such regulations could limit the number of pets allowed. They could also delineate safety requirements and limits on the size of dogs allowed, he said.
*Names have been changed for anonymity.
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