SHANGHAI, China – A second Chinese city plans a mass dog slaughter to control a rabies outbreak, state media said Friday, days after a similar cull in which dogs were beaten to death prompted a torrent of criticism.
Officials in the eastern city of Jining said Thursday they would kill all dogs within three miles of areas where rabies had been found, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The measure came in response to the deaths of 16 people from rabies in Jining in the last eight months, Xinhua said. It didn't say when the cull would begin or how the animals would be killed. It said the city had about 500,000 dogs.
Rabies cases are on the rise in China, with more than 2,000 people dying from the disease each year. Only 3 percent of the country's dogs are vaccinated against rabies.
Last week, a county in southwestern Yunnan province killed 50,000 dogs after three people died of rabies. The massacre provoked unusually pointed criticism in state media, while the activist group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for a boycott of Chinese products.
Other slaughters have been reported elsewhere in China this year, although the government says it has no standard policy of destroying dogs.
"I think this is completely insane," Zhang Luping, founder of the Beijing Human and Animal Environmental Education Center, said Friday in response to Jining's announcement.
"What's more, this really damages our national image and sets a really bad example to show how lazy and inconsiderate those local government officials are," Zhang said.
Zhang said there were no laws under which citizens could stop the killings, but said she and other animal protection activists were reaching out through the media to try to change policy.
"I think this brutal and cold-blooded campaign should stop as soon as possible," Zhang said.
People answering phones at Jining's city government and epidemic control center refused to comment or said they weren't authorized to release information to media.
The World Health Organization has not directly criticized the slaughters, but WHO experts have said they underscore a lack of coordination and other problems with China's health care system.
The killings have prompted widespread commentary in state media and online forums, with opinions strong divided.
Rabies attacks the nervous system. In humans, it normally results in death within a week after symptoms develop.