Authorized as a method to contain outbreaks of rabies that have killed 13 people in the region, the Chinese government leadership in Hanzhong have cobbled together "dog beating teams" to cull local dog populations. The teams, effectively canine death squads, have beaten more than 37,000 dogs to death - clubbing them on the spot, whether they are registered to owners or not.
Killing the dogs was necessary to reign in the epidemic, an official from the local agriculture department told the Melbourne Herald Sun
But the brutality of beating the dogs to death has sparked outrage within China and around the world.
"The Hanzhong dog cull, which began May 23, appears to be one of the largest such episodes in recent years. It has triggered outrage, expressed largely online, from the growing cohort of dog lovers. Internet portals and chat sites in China have carried much discussion, as well as photographs and video, of the cull," reported The Wall Street Journal
There are other alternatives to killing the dogs. Investments in rabies vaccinations and in rabies education for dog owners offer the most effective solutions to the problem.
"Killing dogs is not the appropriate way to control the spread of rabies," Jeff He, a special assistant at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in China, told WSJ. Mr. He notes that China has been using culling methods since the 1950s without tangible results.
Dog populations in rural China have been an ongoing problem, as residents have allowed the animals to roam freely. In Guangzhou, Sky News reports
that residents are struggling with new strict regulations that mandate owning just one dog.
"Dogs are human beings' friends when they are healthy, but once they are infected they do harm to people's health," said Shi Ruihua, head of the livestock department in Hanzhong's agriculture bureau, in the Wall Street Journal report. "Human beings' lives are more important."