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50,000 Dogs Killed for Rabies Prevention
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On Saturday, a woman was walking her dog - a small white animal she'd had for a long time - in a Yunnan Province alley.

Several men approached, talked her into handing them the leash and then beat the dog to death as the owner looked on in horror.

The killing was only a small part of a campaign by Mouding County government officials to slaughter 50,000 canines between July 25 and Sunday, local media reported.

The campaign was touched off by reports that at least three people had died recently in the county from rabies and many others had been bitten.

On Saturday, officials said that 90 percent of the dogs had been killed, and they expected to finish their work on Sunday.

Witnesses indicated the slaughter was often carried with the sort of dramatic elements found in a grade-B horror film.

Around midnight, shadows would flash along the walls of homes as men carrying clubs made noises to set the village dogs barking. Homing in on the sounds, the men would find their quarries, and the barks would be replaced by shrill yelps as the animals were dispatched.

Only military dogs guarding an ammunition storehouse and police dogs were allowed to survive.

Dog attacks

The campaign followed a series of human and livestock deaths and injuries from dog attacks.

This year, 360 of the county's 200,000 people reportedly suffered dog bites. Five were hospitalized since July 20 alone.

Since April, three people died of rabies in the county, one a 4-year-old girl.

Two cows and three pigs were also found dead after dog attacks.

Health authorities began to vaccinate the county's canines, but as the dog attacks increased, government officials decided they needed to take more drastic action.

To ensure public safety, the county government decided to kill all dogs. They set up a task force, led by the director of the public security bureau, to take charge of the campaign.

Authorities first encouraged dog owners to kill their own pets, offering a 5 yuan incentive (US$62 cents), and then sent in the task force to finish those that escaped the first-round slaughter.

The midnight raids were carried out by the task force officers.

According to Chinese media reports, several methods were used to kill the dogs, including clubbing, hanging, electrocution and drugs.

Although most villagers said they understood the necessity for campaign, others thought it was brutal - and unnecessary. About 4,000 dogs in the county had been vaccinated against rabies.

A local veterinary authority official surnamed Liang explained that only 85 percent of the vaccinations would be effective, however.

"With the aim to keep this horrible disease from people, we decided to kill the dogs," Xinhua news agency quoted Li Haibo, spokesman for the county government, as saying.

(Shanghai Daily August 1, 2006)

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