Shanshui district in Guangdong will launch a campaign tomorrow to cull all dogs in the district after a man who was bitten by his pet dog died of rabies.
District officials said they had a serious problem with rabies, which was on the rise, with no one able to say exactly how many unlicensed dogs there were in the district, which is part of the Foshan municipality.
The Health Ministry website said rabies had killed more people than any other infectious disease, including tuberculosis, Aids and hepatitis B. It said rabies had killed 318 people on the mainland last month, up 36.9 per cent from a year ago.
In the first nine months of this year, the number of rabies cases rose 29.7 per cent over the same period last year to 2,254.
A Shanshui police spokesman said only three groups were permitted to keep dogs - foreigners, foreign-owned enterprises and government departments. He said no one from these groups had applied for licences but there were inquiries about ownership rules.
Because dog ownership is under the supervision of separate departments, districts often face problems in co-ordinating dog control.
The police issue licences, agriculture and health departments administer vaccinations and the commerce department inspects dogs. The Urban Management Administrative Law Enforcement Bureau, enforcing the cull, put down 40 dogs in a development zone in Shanshui district last week and will fan out across six townships in the exercise.
'The government feels that the problem has to be tackled at the level of owners. We can't force them to vaccinate their dogs so there is a risk of disease,' a bureau spokeswoman Zhou Haoping said.
Mao Mao, a dog owner who works at a district dog shelter, has protested against the cull, but admitted that owners contributed to the problem by their ignorance of the need to vaccinate their pets.