A U.S. animal rights group Thursday condemned a plan to kill all pet dogs in an anti-rabies campaign in a district of the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing.

The Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society International said in a statement that a vaccination campaign would be a better way to control rabies.

"Rabies is a serious matter, but local, provincial, and national government officials in China must recognize that vaccination campaigns are the most effective way to ensure public safety now and in the future," said Andrew Rowan, the group's chief executive officer.

"Killing animals indiscriminately like this is unnecessary and inexcusable, especially if they're already vaccinated," he said.

According to a statement on the Wanzhou district's official Web site this week, residents of the district have until March 15 to hand over their dogs.

"All the dogs in the area should be killed. A compulsory cull phase will begin after March 16. The forced cull will be carried out by the police," it said.

Officials have rounded up dogs in other cities, such as Beijing, in a crackdown on strays and unregistered pets.

A Wanzhou's Health Department spokesman refused to comment further.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted Wanzhou health official Ran Hua as saying the kill would combat rabies in the area. He said three cases have been reported in the last year, and the paper said one person died last month.