A second city in mainland China has banned dog and cat meat, striking the latest in a series of blows against this cruel trade that causes immeasurable suffering and pain for millions of animals each year.

The city of Zhuhai announced that dogs and cats are not livestock meant for consumption, as part of a wider ban on eating wildlife. The ban will take effect May 1. Zhuhai’s decision comes just weeks after a similar one by the city of Shenzhen. Both cities are located in the Guangdong province where the dog and cat meat trade is widespread, and are often cited as model cities for their technological innovation and economic openness.

Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China policy expert, believes that the bans in Zhuhai and Shenzhen could lead to a national ban on the dog and cat meat trade.

“This cannot be a simple decision from the cities’ leaders; it could be part of a new social and political experiment for new policies to be adopted at the national level. The Chinese government is very likely watching these cities closely as it ponders a national policy on ending dog and cat meat consumption,” Peter said.

We have already seen the Chinese government move toward this goal in recent days. Last week, the country’s ministry of agriculture and rural affairs declared in a report that dogs and cats are companion animals and should not be considered livestock. The municipality of Zhuhai, while announcing its ban, stated that lawmakers must adhere to China’s livestock “white list” of animals for human consumption. Many more Chinese cities are said to be considering similar laws.

All of this is great news for companion animals, including the more than 10 million dogs and four million cats who are killed for their meat in China each year, and for activists who have been fighting this trade for years, including our own Humane Society International staff and their partners in China.

Chinese animal protection groups and activists have not just turned the global spotlight on this trade, increasing pressure on the Chinese government to end it; they have also helped educate millions of Chinese citizens on the cruelty this trade encompasses, leading to the changing view of dogs and cats as companion animals and not meat.

We are also getting reports now that law enforcement authorities are requiring vendors to stop selling dog and cat meat in many more cities across China, and vendors found in violation can have their business permits revoked. These are among the signs of a true transformation in the making and we are more hopeful than ever that China is not far from the day when it will make this brutal trade history.