After two local governments ordered that dogs be killed
following a rabies outbreak in China a heated debate is underway
about whether such an approach is the only way to curb the spread
of the disease. Society is arguing about the merits of a mass
slaughter of dogs.
The local government of Mouding County, in southwest China's Yunnan Province, killed 54,429 dogs between
July 25 and 30 after discovering 357 local people had been bitten
this year and that three had died of rabies.
The local government of Jining City, in east China's Shandong Province, did the same after the
city's nine counties and districts and 14 townships reported a
number of outbreaks of rabies which claimed several lives.
Dog lovers consider the local governments' approach cruel. "If
these dogs weren't vaccinated that's the fault of people and dogs
should not be made to pay for human negligence," said Tang Bing, a
tourism official and dog lover.
"The mass slaughter of dogs is cold-blooded and governments
should detect dogs with rabies and put them down in a humane
manner," said Stone Chen, a 22-year-old journalist who has kept
dogs for years.
On April 3, 14 animal protection associations from all over the
country wrote a letter in protest against the mass slaughter
policy of the two governments. They said rabies had broken out in
other parts of the country in the past but local governments had
curbed the spread of the disease by strengthening vaccination work
in time and killing vagrant dogs.
However, other citizens believe that the mass slaughter of dogs
in the event of a rabies outbreak is necessary. A netizen left a
message on Xinhuanet.com saying that thousands of unvaccinated dogs
in a county would pose a huge public threat. Another netizen agreed
that people's lives should be the government's priority when facing
epidemic situations. Contagious disease experts claim the killing
of dogs is the most effective way to combat a rabies outbreak.
Ding Zhengrong, a local epidemic prevention official in Yunnan
Province said: "Killing dogs is the most effective way to control
the epidemic when rabies breaks out." Even if they look healthy
dogs may still be carrying the virus. When rabies occurs it's
difficult to tell the sick dogs from the healthy so the mass
killing was necessary.
But Ding also said that if measures could be taken to prevent an
outbreak of rabies in the first place there would be no need for
such a course of action. "Compulsory vaccination of all dogs is the
solution," he said. Some urban families failed to register and
vaccinate their dogs because of the expense, noted Ding.
In Jining city, in Shandong Province, it costs 4,500 yuan
(US$564) to register and vaccinate a dog. The high cost has
scared away many dog owners. In the vast rural areas there's no
clear-cut dog registration and vaccination system at all. Ding
suggested that government reduce dog registration and vaccination
fees in cities and in rural areas governments should organize
special groups to patrol and vaccinate dogs for free.
Rabies, mainly spread by dog bites, attacks the nervous system
and usually kills humans within a week of them developing the
symptoms. It's one of the most deadly contagious diseases in China.
The Ministry of Health reported 2,375 deaths from rabies last
"To my knowledge rabies in China is not on the rise," Jiang
Zuojun, vice health minister, said at a press conference Thursday.
"In such a big country it's normal for some cases to occur."
He said the countryside was an area with weak rabies prevention
where dogs were not widely vaccinated against the disease and
medical treatment for people bitten by dogs was not adequate. Jiang
said that more dogs would be vaccinated against rabies in the
"One must be given a vaccination immediately after being bitten
by a dog," Mao Qun'an, the Health Ministry's spokesman said.
(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2006)