CHINA / Regional

Dogs made targets amid mounting rabies deaths
By Sun Xiaohua (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-05 09:08

After 16 local residents died of rabies this year, an East China city on Thursday began killing dogs and adopted coercive measures to have others vaccinated, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Jining in Shandong Province, with some 500,000 dogs in the city, ordered that all dogs within five kilometres of the 16 affected villages be killed, while dogs living within five to 10 kilometres should be taken to veterinary stations for vaccination.

There is no estimate of how many dogs will be slaughtered altogether, in a move critics say will not succeed anyway.

"Killing dogs blindly is not an effective, scientific way to curb rabies, because all warm-blooded animals can possibly carry the rabies virus," said He Yong from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Beijing.

But Jining is not alone. At the end of last month, in Mouding County of Southwest China's Yunnan Province, fear of rabies turned man's best friend into public enemy.

More than 50,000 dogs were killed over five days after three people died of rabies. Only military guard dogs and police canine units were spared.

"Some dogs were beaten to death in the face of their keepers," He said. "It is not a humane way for both dog feeders and dogs."

"The most active and effective measure to control rabies is to give dogs regular rabies vaccines," He Yong said.

For example, Beijing adopts rigid measures on dog raising. If keepers fail the annual health check-up on their pets, they may be fined 5,000 yuan (US$625). Most dogs have been immunized in Beijing. From 1994 to 2004, no rabies cases in the capital had been reported.

However, Beijing has seen a gradual increase in rabies cases in recent years due to the rising number of pet cats and dogs being raised by citizens.

The nationwide situation is not optimistic, either. Figures from the Ministry of Health showed that in June, 623 people died of rabies, giving it the highest death toll of any epidemic during that month.