The killing of all dogs and cats by township government officials in response to one probable rabies death in Sichuan province has aroused controversy and public anger.
More than 4,000 dogs and cats were slaughtered in the weeklong campaign that ended on Wednesday.
"The killing was the aftermath of a case of a suspected rabies death," said Chen Zhongzhi, deputy chief of the Luobo township in Qingshen county.
More than one month ago, Chen Shengcai, an older farmer in Baojing village, had a finger bitten by a dog at his neighbor Wang Jingmin's home.
One month later, he felt dizzy, developed a headache and vomited. Later, he became afraid of water and would bite anyone he met. He died on Sept 14 soon after he was hospitalized.
After doctors said Chen might have died of rabies, six other villagers who had been bitten by the same dog asked Wang to pay for their injections of the rabies vaccine. Wang did not want to pay until the township government intervened.
The township government decided to kill all the dogs and cats in the township, because many cases of rabies had appeared before, said Chen Yongqiu, chief of the township government.
The government asked villagers to kill their own dogs and cats. If they did not comply, a so-called dog-killing team consisted of township and village officials would kill them.
When the killing ended on Wednesday, more than 4,000 dogs and cats, including those who had been vaccinated against rabies, had been killed. Around 60 percent were killed by villagers themselves.
The team will inspect villages in the township both regularly and at irregular intervals to kill any dog and cat its members encounter to ensure there will be not a single live dog or cat in the township for three years, Chen said.
Although a few people backed the killing, because the township has had a high incidence of rabies, most villagers opposed the order.
Li Jia, a middle-aged woman in Xiba village, said her 2-month-old dog was killed by the team although it had been vaccinated.
Many people in the mountainous village keep dogs to ward off thieves when they are away from home to work in the field. Now her village, which had nearly 100 dogs, has none.
Most villagers did not vaccinate their dogs or cats because they did not want to pay for it. The government should have taken action to ensure that each dog or cat had been vaccinated instead of killing them casually, she said.
(China Daily September 25, 2009)