Thousands of dogs suffer needless cull

Jun 17, 2009

Fear of rabies renders dogs vulnerable to misdirected and needless cruelty

Over 36,000 dogs have been killed in central China. This kneejerk reaction to reported human rabies cases ignores all evidence that a humane dog vaccination and public education program is the only effective way to combat the spread of this potentially fatal disease.

The indiscriminate cull in Hanzhong, Shanxxi Province, plucked both stray dogs and pets from the streets, distressing owners.

The city authorities claimed to be running a dog vaccination program. In reality this has reached a tiny minority of dogs. Instead local people have been paid to club dogs to death, believing it to be a solution to rabies.

These methods are not backed by the wider Chinese public. Pet ownership in China is growing fast, and a recent online opinion poll suggested that more than 70 per cent of Chinese people oppose the Hanzhong cull.

A better way for the entire community

WSPA’s Beijing office is urging the Chinese authorities to adopt humane methods to control cases of rabies. We are speaking out against the cull and meeting with the central government and the World Health Organization (WHO) to push the cruelty-free alternative.

Alongside WSPA and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), WHO argues that indiscriminate culling is proven to be ineffective in controlling dog populations and preventing rabies. 

Instead, this influential organization – which has worked with WSPA on developing humane programs to prevent rabies – supports a more compassionate ‘one health’ solution.

This would take the form of a comprehensive and humane strategy, combining public education on avoiding rabies and responsible pet ownership with a mass dog vaccination program.

WSPA’s Dr Elly Hiby commented: “WSPA has worked with partners in many areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America to implement humane and effective prevention and responses to rabies. Culls simply do not work – people want to keep dogs and will protect and hide them – China is no different. If the authorities instead work with owners to vaccinate the dogs they will create a rabies immune dog population, protecting the health of the whole community.”

By eventually eradicating the spread of rabies in dogs, the people of Hanzhong would be safer from this disease without resorting to acute and widespread animal suffering. Education would ensure the solution works long-term.

Too late for some, new law offers hope

Experts recently completed drafting the country's first animal protection law; they are now revising it before submission to government and congress authorities.

Under the draft law, animal abuse including dog culling would be illegal. If passed, it would be the first time that the concept of ‘animal welfare’ appears in Chinese law.

WSPA welcomes this move but is concerned that no timetable has been set for submitting the law, which comes far too late for many thousands of dogs.

What you can do to help dogs now

To demonstrate your concern for the welfare of Hanzhong’s dogs, please write a polite personal letter to your country’s Chinese embassy.

Explain your disappointment at the inhumane Chinese response, pointing out that dog culls are deemed ineffective in controlling rabies by WHO and the OIE. 

Your respectful letters help WSPA and other animal welfare organizations working within China, by letting the government know that the world is watching and urging them to adopt proven and cruelty-free methods for protecting public health.

Read about WSPA-funded stray animal welfare programs in Sierra Leone and Nepal >>

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A dog at WSPA member society KACPAW's clinic, Sri Lanka