In a momentous step forward for companion animals, the Chinese government has approved a proposal by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to reclassify dogs as pets rather than livestock — effectively making it illegal to sell dog meat in the country, although the move still does not ban eating dogs.

Dogs were removed from the latest version of the Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry, released Friday, meaning canines cannot be commercially bred, raised, traded, or transported under China’s Animal Husbandry Law. This means that dog meat markets, restaurants, and slaughterhouses across China cannot operate legally; the policy also applies to cats, who have never been listed as livestock.

A spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs told reporters that some “traditional customs” will soon change. Meanwhile, the ministry is encouraging citizens to reconsider “some traditional customs about dogs” and reminding everyone that dogs are “companion, rescue and service animals.”

It’s unclear what these changes mean for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, which is less than a month away, or if and how the government will enforce the new policy. Thousands of dogs are typically slaughtered and eaten during the event, which occurs on the summer solstice every year.

The recognition that dogs are not livestock is a meaningful step in the right direction, and Lady Freethinker applauds this move.

Still, additional legislation explicitly banning dog and cat meat is badly needed. If you haven’t yet, please sign Lady Freethinker’s petition urging Cui Tiankai, the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., to push for a permanent, nationwide ban against dog and cat meat.

Sign the Petition: Stop China’s Horrific Dog and Cat Meat Trade