Alleged dog killing for Covid-19 'virus control' sparks outrage and reflection in China

Webcam footage showed the dog, a corgi, flinching as it was hit by community workers with a pole.
Webcam footage showed the dog, a corgi, flinching as it was hit by community workers with a crowbar.PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM WEIBO

BEIJING - The alleged killing of a dog whose owners were under quarantine has sparked outrage in China, igniting a flurry of discussions on animal welfare as the country grapples with a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

It is the latest in a series of incidents involving mistreatment of animals amid Covid-19, and has also sparked conversations about what is acceptable in the name of epidemic prevention.

In a Weibo social media post that went viral on the weekend, a woman in Shangrao city, Jiangxi province, said she had been put under quarantine last Thursday night (Nov 11) after a Covid-19 case was detected in her neighbourhood.

Unable to take her pet corgi along, the woman, who had identified herself only as Ms Fu, left it at home with a note on her door telling health workers coming to sanitise the flat that her dog was on a leash and to let him stay at home.

But last Friday afternoon, health workers dressed in white protective outfits broke into her apartment armed with what appeared to be a crowbar to take her dog away but it resisted.

Footage from a webcam showed the dog hiding in a corner under a table, which the workers later removed in order to get hold of it.

Ms Fu watched via the webcam as they repeatedly struck the dog with the crowbar, despite her pleas through the camera's communication function. They told her that begging with them was futile because a superior had tasked them to "resolve" the issue of the dog.

After several blows to the head, the dog limped out of frame but can be heard whimpering in the background before going silent.

Ms Fu said its limp body was put into a yellow plastic bag and taken away.

By Saturday, the post had been viewed more than 50 million times with over 118,000 shares, but it could not be searched on Weibo and was no longer available on Monday.

Despite censors' best efforts at scrubbing the incident from the Internet, the case gained a second wind after local officials responded to the incident on Saturday.

The Xinzhou District Xishi Community virus control group said the staff involved had been removed from their positions and had apologised to Ms Fu, who "expressed her understanding" of the situation.

"Before workers at the scene sufficiently communicated with (Ms Fu), they conducted harmless disposal of the pet dog," the group said in a statement posted on its official social media accounts.

The use of the term "harmless disposal" sparked further outrage, with many holding it up as another instance of officials overreacting and overreaching in the pursuit of zero Covid-19.

"When did 'prevention and control' become a shield for people doing anything they want?" wrote one Weibo user. "While we sincerely thank front-line workers for their tireless work, we also express our utmost protest against those who illegally infringe on others' private property and slaughter animals."

 

In an online editorial, state broadcaster CCTV said fault cannot simply be placed on an individual's lack of understanding.

"In this issue, understanding from all sides; the minutiae of laws; the rigidity of governance; a lack of medical understanding... all reflect multi-dimensional and deep structural issues," the editorial said.

As China puts districts under lockdown in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19, the issue of pet care has become a hot topic in the increasingly affluent country.

Earlier this year, Shanghai allowed dogs to accompany their owners into centralised quarantine, while in Beijing, Daxing district allowed one family member to stay home for pet care and another district offered pet hotel services.

But the question still remains on what to do with pets that test positive for Covid-19.

In September, pet lovers were outraged when Harbin announced the euthanisation of three cats after they and their owner were infected.

On Monday, the China Small Animal Protection Association (CSAPA) also called for more humane treatment of pets when owners are in quarantine.

"As society gets more civilised and developed, pets are no longer just small animals, but are our companions and spiritual sustenance. People should not cause harm to these 'family members' in the name of epidemic prevention and control," CSAPA wrote in a post on Weibo.

"If we hurt a defenceless life, do we even have any right to discuss humanitarianism?"