China Spotlight: City Residents Claim Victory in Saving their Dogs

A supporter nearly shouts over the phone receiver, ”All Jiangmen city dogs will be culled. Please help”!

Appeals for help from animal loving people in Jiangment City, China are pouring into the International Fund for Animal Welfare office in Bejing.

An online notice posted July 29th, in Jiangmen city in Guangdong province announced that in the next three weeks the local officials intended to:

  • Ban dogs in three districts of Jiangmen, only people with high priced property can apply to get an exemption to keep dogs as guard dogs
  • Ban dogs from public places and roads, owners should get rid of their dogs by relinquishing them to the agricultural bureau by August 10th
  • Confiscate and destroy all dogs that are in the three districts starting August 26th

The reason for the notice is to prevent rabies for human health and safety and to establish a civilized city.

Orders for dog culls like this one are not new to our office. We come across these types of mass culls several times a year. Often the local government officials have no idea how to deal with the increasing number of dogs and dog owning population. Their misguided dog culling decisions are often based on fear.

IFAW veterinary staff working with a dog at a "spay relay" event in China this year.

Ignorance about rabies and rabies prevention is prevalent in China. The Chinese word for “rabies” is literally “mad dog disease”. Out of fear of rabies, dogs are particularly prejudiced and persecuted against.

There is no animal welfare legislation in China which means that to cull dogs in the name of rabies prevention, men with clubs would scour the streets clubbing, beating and bludgeoning dogs to death, sometimes right in front of the dog owner.

Since 1997, IFAW has successfully stopped many mass dog culls, by writing appeal letters to governments urging them to consider the negative image culling would bring to their city. We deliver letters to the local officials in the city where the cull is planned, and copy the letter to his superiors at provincial and the state level.

This tactic works! Shaming the officials is more effective than any moral argument. The local officials that call for mass culls suddenly realize that their decision could cost them their jobs because they could be blamed by their bosses for bringing negative impact to the city.

Sometimes, we enlist the help of the media and the animal loving people in China to put pressure on the government to stop a dog cull.

In 2009 when nearly 40,000 dogs are culled in Hanzhong, an online poll of 60,000 Chinese showed that 89% support China to have animal welfare legislation to prevent the inhumane killing of animals.

With another dog cull looming, millions of concerned and outraged Chinese citizens took action. In three days, they flooded online forums, blogs, social networking sites and media outlets.

Overwhelming majority of them condemn the dog cull and urge the government to replace bans with humane management systems.

Legal experts pointed out that  killing dogs rightfully owned is violating China’s Constitution and the basic rights of a citizen. Disease control experts warned that dog ban and culls are inhumane and unnecessary. Rabies can be and has been successfully controlled in many parts of the world through disease prevention with vaccination and managing dog population with sterilization.

Many expressed concern that the ban and the subsequent cull would incite conflicts, create social unrest, harm people’s feelings, thus not beneficial to China’s goal of building a harmonious society.

Under overwhelming public pressure, the Jiangmen city government withdrew the dog cull order on August 3 at 7pm Beijing time to be exact!

This is a tremendous victory! And this time, the victory completely belongs to the people of China!

To me, this victory means more than sparing the lives of innocent animals. It indicates a sea change in the public’s attitudes towards animals in China. People are standing up and saying “No” to animal cruelty. It gives me hope to see the day China will have animal welfare legislation to ban dog culls, once and for all!

-- GG

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world, visit http://ifaw.org 

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