Hospital blog post of dog attack victim sparks animal rights debate in China

  • Images of six-year-old boy mauled by dogs goes viral
  • Social media users have mostly come out in support of culling strays
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 2:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 5:38pm

A Chinese hospital’s blog post about saving a boy who had been attacked by dogs has been removed after it was criticised for being too graphic, even as it has sparked a heated online debate about animal rights.

The six-year-old boy was transferred to the Jiuquan People’s Hospital in northwest China’s Gansu province after being mauled by several stray dogs on October 14.

His scalp was severely torn and he had scratches all over his body, according to images the hospital posted on October 20 showing the surgery required to treat the boy.

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An animal rights blog called Asia Animal Radio reposted the images on the social media service Weibo, calling the case “a medical dispute between dogs and doctors” and claiming that “some animal rights advocates were unhappy that the hospital was creating tension between people and dogs”.

The account is not officially verified by Weibo and has disabled comments on its original post.

The Weibo hashtag “boy’s scalp torn by dogs” has since been viewed 150 million times with more than 28,000 comments, most of which criticise “animal advocacy groups” for prioritising dogs over humans.

“I support trapping and killing aggressive strays. To those of you ‘extremist dog lovers’, if you really have such caring hearts then bring these strays home, vaccinate them and turn them into pets,” the top post on the Weibo topic page said.

“Why should we protect stray dogs? Shouldn’t they all be culled?” asked another Weibo user.

Some posts called for better education and neutering stray animals, but those comments were mostly the minority in the overall debate.

There are frequent reports of stray or unleashed dogs in China attacking people, with some cases even leading to fatalities. Another six-year-old boy in eastern Zhejiang province died of rabies after a loose dog bit him last month, according to the Shanghai-based news portal Thepaper.cn.

While the number of animal welfare groups in China is growing and rules requiring the use of animals in testing for cosmetics were dropped in 2014, the nation still has no animal protection laws.

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There are frequent reports of dogs beaten to death by people who say they want to prevent attacks or the spread of diseases like rabies.

Widespread support for trapping and killing stray dogs may also be at least partly attributable to a misunderstanding about “animal welfare”, with many Chinese assuming that the concept is a luxury rather than a standard to address basic biological and psychological needs of animals, according to the US-based International Fund for Animal Welfare.