Animal welfare groups demand end to 'cruel' anti-rabies dog cull

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2003, 12:00am

Disputing Guangdong figures, they say only 74 are infected in a 70m population

Several animal protection organisations have made a collective call to the Health Ministry and the Guangdong government to stop at once the killing of dogs to control the spread of rabies.

The president of the Animal Rescue Association, Wu Tianyu, speaking at the China Small Animal Protection Association, said the cull was cruel and unreasonable.

'This is a serious problem. It is just the prelude. The killing will spread to the whole country,' Ms Wu said. She said that some cities like Tianjin, Wuhan, Nanjing, Suzhou and Xian were already following Guangdong's example and killing dogs.

She said that she had called the Health Ministry's general office to complain that figures cited by Guangdong health department saying 18 per cent of dogs were diseased were inaccurate.

'I asked them where they got the figures for the diseased dogs. I told them that those figures were based on a study in 1990. I asked them if they had done any other study before ordering the killing. They hung up on me,' she said.

She said the number of people infected with rabies in Guangdong was only 74 in a population of 70 million. 'It does not justify the killing of so many dogs,' she said.

The Guangdong health department last week ordered the killing of all dogs in areas affected by rabies within a week and a ban on imports of dogs for a year.

Reports said 6,850 dogs were killed in Maoming, which had 32 rabies cases, while Lianjiang, which had eight cases, put down 52,614 dogs.

The Health Ministry said last week that rabies was the deadliest of 27 diseases that people had contracted in the first half year.

In the first six months, 490 of 545 people who caught rabies died, while 348 of 5,327 Sars victim succumbed to the viral disease. The number of rabies cases and deaths rose 20 per cent year on year.

A Xinhua report attributed the rise in rabies to the increase in the number of dogs being kept in city and rural areas. The disease had also spread because of substandard vaccines and improper treatment of wounds caused by dog bites.

Many people are keeping dogs illegally because of prohibitive licensing fees, which makes it hard for the authorities to enforce vaccination programmes.