According to Chinese state media, 36,000 dogs have been killed in Hanzhong, in the northern province of Shaanxi, to rid the city of a rapid rabies outbreak plaguing the area since last May. The disease has killed 12 people, with possible further infections arising from the 6,000 others who have been bitten or scratched by a dog.

Hanzhong government believes the dog extermination will prevent further spread of the disease, Reuters reported.

The Hanzhong dog cull has upset numerous animal rights activists, who call it animal abuse. Also, Hanzhong could face unintended danger from the killings.

"The mass removal of dogs can result in the increased movement of dogs of unknown disease status from surrounding areas, thereby actually facilitating disease transmission and increasing the threat to human and animal health," Reuters quoted Peter Williams, China director for the World Society for Protection of Animals.

This mass dog extermination comes in the wake of a new “animal welfare” law being drafted in China, Reuters said. Animal protection organizations hope the law will prevent animal cruelty they say has plagued the nation for years.

Click here to read the full Reuters report.