It’s devastating to have to bring you such tragic, horrible news. A rabies outbreak involving 10 human cases, has prompted authorities in China's northwest Shaanxi Province to order a cull that has already seen as many as 30,000 dogs brutally slaughtered on the streets of Hanzhong and surrounding areas. This is one in 10 of the city's dogs.
Despite our best efforts – and those of other NGOs and many desperate local people – because of two more human cases of rabies, the dogs are still being brutally hunted down by gangs of men and women wielding bloody sticks, metal hooks and ropes, then heartlessly clubbed to death. Some are cherished family pets, while others are strays that have already suffered enough in their cruel, short lives on the streets.
The gutters are running with blood, but it’s the hands of the Hanzhong authorities that are stained. The slaughtered dogs were on the streets only because these people still refuse to act on the evidence before their eyes – that the only way to manage stray-dog populations (and therefore rabies and other diseases) is to implement broad vaccination and trap, neuter, release (TNR) programmes.
Over the past two weeks, families have sobbed and fallen to their knees as their beloved dogs were snatched from their arms, roughly collared with rope and beaten to death before their eyes. Often the dogs wag their tails once or twice and look up pathetically between careless heavy blows to the face, head and spine. The dogs’ cries are spine-chilling.
Other dogs whimper and cower nearby – all of them terrified, knowing their turn will come soon. Some of the killers are local men, ordered by the authorities to help in the slaughter. Others are taking part willingly, even laughing as they brutalise the dogs.
We are so grateful to Jiang Hong, founder of the Small Animal Rescue Centre of Xian, who along with representatives of several local animal-welfare groups, made an urgent trip to Hanzhong to plead our case with the authorities.
Sponsored by Animals Asia, Ms Jiang’s group spent three traumatic days witnessing and recording the cull and offering officials help with dog control. In Yangxian town, they saw no dogs alive – just rotting carcasses scattered around the streets and in the waterways, causing a serious risk to public health.
The authorities stubbornly went ahead with the cull despite receiving advice from international and Chinese experts that culls do nothing to eradicate rabies. Our own letter – passed on to Hanzhong officials by Ms Jiang – was virtually ignored, the officials seemingly unmoved and uncaring.
I’m deeply saddened by these events. I’ve grown to love China and hate to see such wanton disregard for the country’s image in the world, let alone the sheer disregard for the suffering of people and animals. But this is just a small part of the story. Every day, we are seeing amazing developments, particularly through our relationships with more than 60 local animal-welfare groups throughout the country.
Even in Hanzhong, the scene of such bloodshed earlier this month, there is positive news. More than 200 residents attended the lakeside vigil, forming a poignant “SOS” with lighted candles to mourn the victims, many of them their pets; and because of the cull, some animal lovers have formed an organisation to lobby their local authorities to adopt stray-dog management measures.
Other municipalities are listening. Just last month, Animals Asia – along with other animal-welfare groups – was able to convince officials in Hehei, Heilongjiang Province to abandon a similar cull.
Please help us with this! We urgently need funds to equip local groups with the materials and information they need to convince their local governments to work with them. With grants from Animals Asia, these groups will be able to produce their own flyers, leaflets and banners to send to the authorities, the media and public along with our Dr Eddie Education Packs, and to continue our TNR programmes.
More and more cities are listening and implementing regulations to control stray dog and cat populations. It is so important that we keep the momentum going. It is the local people themselves who are bringing about these changes. They no longer want to live in fear of walking their dogs on the streets.
These people are willing to work hard, but most are poor and lacking resources. Please help us to help them.
Jill Robinson MBE Founder and CEO Animals Asia Foundation
PS: Please write a polite letter to your local Chinese embassy asking for an immediate stop to the Hanzhong cull and an end to cruel dog culls throughout China. Please also ask that the Chinese authorities work with Animals Asia to introduce effective, lasting and humane anti-rabies measures. See here for embassy addresses, or here for ideas.