A town in Sichuan has killed what it believes to be all cats and dogs within its boundaries after a resident died from what doctors suspect was rabies.
The killing spree started on Sept. 16 and lasted until 5 p.m. on Sept. 23, leaving behind a total of 4,126 slaughtered dogs and cats, reported the Chengdu Commercial Daily.
Volunteers at a 'World Rabies Day' information booth in Changsha.
The series of events started when a farmer was bitten by a neighbor's dog. Nearly a month later, he began showing symptoms common to rabies patients, including hydrophobia, and died shortly thereafter, according to China News.
When six other residents of the town who had been bitten by the same dog learned of the victim's alleged cause of death, they demanded that the dog's owner pay for rabies vaccinations. The owner refused, and the township government was pulled into the fray.
They decided the best course of action would be to order a mass killing of all dogs and cats within the town's boundaries.
From China Daily:
The government asked villagers to kill their own dogs and cats. If they did not comply, a so-called dog-killing team consisted of township and village officials would kill them.
When the killing ended on Wednesday, more than 4,000 dogs and cats, including those who had been vaccinated against rabies, had been killed. Around 60 percent were killed by villagers themselves.
The team will inspect villages in the township both regularly and at irregular intervals to kill any dog and cat its members encounter to ensure there will be not a single live dog or cat in the township for three years, Chen [Zhongzhi, village deputy chief,] said.
During these inspections, any living cat or dog that is found will be killed immediately, said Chen.
The mountainous township of Luobo in Qingshen county, where the killing spree took place, has reported a high incidence of rabies. Luobo is under the jurisdiction of the city of Meishan. The city lies south of Chengdu, approximately halfway to Le Shan. (眉山市青神县罗波乡)
Although laws regulating the selling, buying, and keeping of pets, including animal registration and vaccination are in place, enforcement of them has been lax, likely leading to the rabies incident, said an officer from the Meishan Dongpo district public security bureau.
Chengdu animal-rights association vice secretary general Zhang Ming heard of the incident on Sept. 22, the day before the campaign ended. That day, armed with documents regarding the human treatment of animals, he went directly to Meishan to petition the township to alter its policy from one of killing to one of capture. "This dogslaughter is inhumane. There are more humane and scientific ways to prevent epidemics," Zhang said.
But deputy chief Chen defended the mandate. "Everyone holds grief in his heart. It wasn't easy for me to watch a dog being killed, either, but in my position the first priority is to ensure the safety of the people's lives and property."
While some residents of Luobo expressed their agreement with the policy, many were outraged that the situation had spiraled so far out of control. Some went so far as to criticize the government's reaction as "kill instead of oversee" (以杀代管).
In Xiba village, where residents estimated there used to be close to 100 dogs, often kept to warn households of intruders, now there are none.
"The government should have taken action to ensure that each dog or cat had been vaccinated instead of killing them casually," said one of the residents whose two-month-old vaccinated puppy was among those killed.
Although it is preventable by vaccination, rabies is transmitted easily from animals to humans and almost certainly leads to death once a carrier of the virus starts to show symptoms. To date, there has been only one known survivor of the disease.
Image: Changsha News