May 31st, 2009 began like any other normal day in Yangxian County, Shaanxi Province, China. Countless stray pups aimlessly wandered the streets, picking through garbage and carefully avoiding the city’s frustrated populace. It was typical for Yangxian, a city plagued by an overpopulation of dogs—especially street dogs.
But what happened soon after still haunts the dreams of dog lovers worldwide.
The city officials initiated a ‘dog cull’ order wherein every single dog in Yangxian was to be executed—whether by being beaten to death, sliced open, or just shot. And it mattered naught whether the pooch roamed the streets or resided with a master, for even dog owners were forced to kill, lest they be fined 100 yuan for a more formal execution by the military police.
Behind the widespread execution was an alleged claim by government officials that stray rabies-infected dogs had recently bitten over 300 people. Many dog lovers believe that the order was in fact a cleverly planned attempt to turn Yangxian into a dogless city much like Heihe, Heilogjiang Province, where only a few days earlier, over 30,000 dogs had been ruthlessly killed to combat a few rare instances of rabies. It makes sense too, especially considering that even vaccinated dogs were targeted for extermination.
Since the horrendous dog massacres of 2009—which also occurred in several other unmentioned cities—there have been massive outcries all across the globe, from chat-rooms, the press, and countless international animal advocacy groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Humane Society International (HSI). As of February 2010, no more dog culling orders have been filed, but the aftermath still stings strongly for many.
An unidentified animal activist stated, “My husband could not sleep for several nights. What he had in his mind were the blood trails on the ground, dying dogs taking a last look at this not-so-friendly world, and the wailing howls of the dogs pinned down by the police.”
The biggest question on people’s mind is whether or not these executions were necessary. Xing Tianhu, the deputy mayor of Hanzhong, defended the massacres: “Our data showed us that the number of dogs carrying the rabies virus has increased and we needed to urgently control this epidemic.”
Ingrid E. Newkirk of the American Chronicle noted, however, that “virtually every emerging nation in the world has dealt effectively with rabies without slaughtering dogs.” In fact, most nations already mandate rabies vaccinations for owned animals; plus, they utilize spaying & neutering to ensure overpopulation doesn’t occur. “Such a program could be established in China as it has been in so many other countries,” she said.
Professor Zu, an epidemiologist, further clarifies the issue by pointing out the importance of proper public education on rabies. Most of China’ rural inhabitants are unaware that there are treatments for people who have been bitten by a dog infected with rabies. It’s up to the Chinese government to invest in proper education, though.
For more images from the dog massacres, please view the footage below. Do keep in mind, however, that it contains graphic footage that some viewers may find offensive.