The mass dog cull in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province is over. Despite local and international pressure to end the killings, the cull ran as planned for one month from 23 May 2009, meaning there’s no guarantee of safety for surviving dogs in the future.
Over 36,000 dogs died – pets as well as stray or roaming dogs. This was suffering on a vast scale.
While WSPA’s calls for an end to the random killing of dogs went unheard, we continue to work on behalf of animals in China to protect as many as possible in the future.
On 28 June Alyce Yu, Manager of WSPA’s China office, attended the Forum on Scientific, Effective and Humane Rabies Control in China. This meeting was organised by four key groups: the China Medical Foundation, China Medical Rescue Association, Beijing’s Capital Animal Welfare Association and ACT Asia for Animals.
The forum was attended by Chinese politicians and policymakers, university professors, local and international welfare NGOs and the Chinese media.
Humane thinking enters the mainstream
While human health remains the priority for Chinese authorities, the meeting participants did discuss a national online survey which revealed that more than 70% of people polled were against dog culling and did not see it as a valid form of rabies control.
Concern was also expressed about human health issues resulting from culls: as well as being ineffective in preventing rabies in dogs and humans long-term, disposing of thousands of dead animals also presents a health hazard.
It was recognised that the prohibitive cost of registering a dog and the lack of education, coordination between agencies, animal protection law and dog vaccinations were all elements preventing a holistic and humane response effectively tackling rabies in Hanzhong.
A kinder future?
Experts at the meeting made suggestions about ways to address rabies in humans, looking at medical resources and changes in the way departments work together.
Importantly, they also put discussed methods for tackling rabies in dogs humanely, including managing the dog population better, considering sterilization, thinking about ways to mitigate pain if a dog must be captured, promoting registration, and education for the public to prevent dogs being blamed for rabies outbreaks.
While these measures are yet to be implemented or adopted as policy, the fact that humane dog management and animal welfare law – currently none exists in China – were discussed at an official forum is promising.
To build on this, WSPA’s office in Beijing will explore better methods of implementing dog rabies vaccination programmes in rural areas and identify how we can help to overcome and remove current barriers.
Focusing on animals today
The realisation of this early promise may be a long time in the future. Until then, culls could take place whenever the threat of rabies if felt.
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