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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
China couple split over dead dog
A woman carries her pet dog in Shanghai
Household pets are becoming increasingly popular in China
A Chinese woman who hired four hit men to kill her husband's beloved pet wolfhound now faces divorce.

The woman, Xiao Fang, told the official Xinhua news agency she did not want the dog to mess up their new apartment in the eastern city of Nanjing.

She tried to throw the dog out but it always came back, so she hired four men to kill it while her husband was away on business.

When her husband Mr Xu found out what had happened, he was so livid he moved out of the apartment and started divorce proceedings, Xinhua said.

Her husband said the wolfhound, called Heihu or "Black Tiger", was "like a member of our family to me".

"How could she be so cruel?" he asked.

Mrs Xiao seemed equally shocked by her husband's reaction.

"Who's more important to him after all - his wife or a dog?" she reportedly asked.

Xinhua reported the incident as part of a feature on pets, and said it took place earlier this year.

The news agency went on to explore the relative benefits and disadvantages of pet ownership.

Last year, the number of rabies cases in China rose sharply - with nearly 1,300 people dying from the disease in the first nine months of the year.

But Xinhua went on to point out that a recent study by Beijing Normal University found that pet owners were healthier and happier than the rest of the population.

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