BEIJING, June 16 (Xinhua) -- The dog looked into the
camera innocently, wagging its tail under the shadow of a tree, unaware of the
three men approaching with long bamboo poles in hand.
In the following seconds, it was beaten on the back
and head and left in a pool of blood.
The video, widely circulated online, roused
nationwide anger among animal-lovers but it wasn't a classic case of abuse. It
was a government attempt to stop the spread of rabies.
The video was shot in Hanzhong in the northwestern
Shaanxi Province by an unidentified observer.
On May 23, in response to increasing rabies cases,
the Hanzhong city government ordered that all dogs in rabies-infected villages
be killed. More than 34,000 dogs were killed as of June 11, according to the
The human stories were no less heart-wrenching.
Li Yajun, 42, died of rabies on May 28 in Li Village,
Yangxian County in Hanzhong.
Working as a security guard in a county hotel, he was
bitten by a pet dog on his finger around April 20 but didn't seek medical
attention. Two weeks later, he began to have stomach- and headaches, nausea,
panic and photophobia.
"He was like a crazy man," said his wife Bi Xiaoxian. "From
May 26, he began to scratch everything, bite hands and the quilt. He
couldn't urinate so his belly was swollen."
The family sent him to the hospital on May 22, three
days after he first showed symptoms, but it was too late.
Since March, rabies has broken out in five counties
of Hanzhong. As of June 12, about 8,600 people had been bitten or scratched by
dogs and 12 had died of rabies.
"Many have gotten hurt and the situation is getting
worse. What else can we do?" said Yang Jian, deputy chief of the agricultural
department of Hanzhong, in an interview with Phoenix TV on June 4.
Hanzhong was not the only place where dogs were
killed. In late May, the government of Heihe in northeastern Heilongjiang
Province announced a ban against dogs in the city and four villages under its
administration. All dogs would be killed and their owners fined up to 200 yuan
(about 29 dollars) if they were spotted in these areas from May 23 on.
Dog killings also took place in Chongqing
Municipality, eastern Shandong Province, southwestern Yunnan Province, southern
Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian provinces in the past three years, all to control
But despite the rabies outbreak, people questioned
the local government about the need to kill all dogs.
Hongshiliu Companion Animal Rescue Center, a
Xi'an-based animal rights group, sent 12 volunteers on June 4 to Hanzhong to try
to stop the killing.
The volunteers saw people killing dogs on the streets
of Hanzhong. Even those vaccinated could not survive, said Jiang Hong, in charge
of Hongshiliu. "There must be a more humane and safe way to control rabies."
Fourteen animal protection organizations from Xi'an,
Chengdu of Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality jointly wrote to the
Hanzhong government offering technical assistance in controlling rabies.
In Heihe, under increasing public pressure
nationwide, the local government withdrew its death edict but Hanzhong
China ranks the second in terms of rabies incidence
in the world, right after India, in recent years, according to the Ministry of
"Rabies broke out mainly because people don't have
their dogs vaccinated. Laws and regulations do require people to vaccinate and
register their dogs and send them for annual health checks but they are not
effectively implemented, especially in rural areas," Sun Jiang, an expert from
the Northwest University of Political Science and Law, told Xinhua Tuesday.
Sun agreed the government should kill infected dogs
in case of a serious epidemic but it was not necessary to kill them all
"Instead, the government should inform the public of
the epidemic, vaccinate dogs and take humane measures to euthanize infected
animals," he said.
"The root of dog killing is that we lack a
specialized and inclusive law on animal protection. The laws largely focus on
rare wild animals," he said. "Most importantly, we don't have strong punishment
for domestic animal abuse and killing."
Animal abuse is not a new topic in China. It's made
the headlines with such tales as university students abusing pet cats, farmers
cramming pigs into small cages that are so crowded the animals die, and the
illegal sale of cats to restaurants.
Experts are working hard to lobby the legislature for
an animal protection law.
At a seminar held at the Northwest University of
Political Science and Law on Dec. 20, 2008, law experts decided to draft a
version of an animal protection law and submit it to the legislature.
Sun was in charge of the section on companion
animals, covering issues such as compulsory vaccination, annual exams and
sheltering of companion animals.
"People's attitude toward animals reflects a
society's civilization level. Although a law can not solve all problems, it will
make people think again about their attitude and help reduce abuse," he said.
More than two-thirds of countries have animal welfare
laws and China should follow suit, he added.