Dog catchers in one Guangdong city have killed 2,000 strays to stop the spread of rabies, the Beijing Morning Post reported yesterday. Seven people have died from the disease in Lianjiang since March. The first death was of a man bitten by his own pet. Lianjiang was thought to be home to more than 20,000 dogs, many of them pets, the newspaper said. Most dog owners hid their pets or hired protection for them when the dog squads patrolled the streets. A photograph in the newspaper showed three men with sticks where five dogs lay dead. Grace Gabriel, China representative with the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Beijing, said other Chinese cities had authorised officials to beat dogs to death and her organisation had sent letters asking them to kill the animals humanely. 'Beating them is not humanitarian,' she said. She said authorities in Lianjiang should also teach dog owners to vaccinate their pets.