years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Experts meet to discuss humane dog population and rabies control in China
Animals welfare activists gather in Beijing in the wake of the Hanzhong dog culling.
Participants discuss implementation procedures for proper rabies control.
Following the recent dog culls in Hanzhong, which have seen some 40,000 dogs lose their lives in the most brutal fashion in response to a cluster of 12 cases of human rabies, Chinese and international experts gathered in Beijing on 29th June to discuss more effective methods of controlling rabies in China.
The meeting was jointly organised by local and international medical and welfare organisations, including the China Medical Association, the China Medical Rescue Association, Beijing’s Capital Animal Welfare Association and ACTAsia for Animals.
It was attended by senior Chinese politicians and policymakers, medical and legal experts, university professors, local and international welfare NGOs, and the Chinese and international media.
Animals Asia was represented by Rainbow Zhou, our Education and PR Manager from Chengdu. The forum was chaired by Cao Baoyin, the senior editor and commentator of Beijing News (Xinjin Bao)and ACTAsia for Animals and Humane Society International jointly sponsored the event.
The mass culling of dogs has long been used in response to outbreaks of human rabies in China, yet China continues to suffer amongst the highest numbers of human rabies cases each year. The meeting acknowledged that indiscriminate dog culling of the kind used in Hanzhong is not an effective method of controlling rabies, a fact recognised by the World Health Organisation since the middle of the last century.
Not only that, but the culling methods used contravene the property rights of dog owners, and more importantly have a very negative impact on those who may witness the slaughter. In Hanzhong, the bodies of many slaughtered dogs were dumped in the river, resulting in water pollution and a potential risk to public health.
The success of regions outside mainland China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, in controlling rabies through good dog population management and legislation, was recognised. Mainland China continues to face problems because of poor investigation into the mechanisms of spread of the disease, and because of a lack of appropriate legislation and coordination between different government agencies. Dog population control measures vary enormously, between cities and regions, and between urban and rural populations. A coordinated approach is required. Government funded programmes for dog population management and rabies control should be implemented, with incentives for the neutering and vaccination of dogs.
Vaccination of 75% or more of the dog population should prevent rabies from spreading further. To achieve this, the cooperation of government agencies including the Centre for Disease Control and the Agriculture Ministry, is required. A representative from the Centre of Disease Control stated that rabies vaccines currently in use were from approved manufacturers, and that outbreaks of rabies should not have anything to do with substandard vaccines.
Effective public education programmes and the provision of good preventative treatment for people who have been bitten, were also identified as being essential in the long term control of the disease. Methods of getting the rabies prevention message across to urban and rural communities, in the most effective format, were discussed.
Unfortunately, despite invitations, government officials from either Shanxi province or Hanzhong City were not in attendance. However, at the end of the meeting Mr Cao suggested that a further forum should be convened in the near future to discuss how the many good ideas put forward at this meeting could be implemented. This follow-up could take place in Shanxi province/Hanzhong City, so the recommendations can be passed directly to the provincial and city officials.
This meeting took place because of the public outcry from both within China and from the international community that followed the Hanzhong slaughter. It represents a small but important step in the process of changing China's rabies control policy, from one of ineffective reactive mass slaughtering of dogs, towards one of effective and humane dog population and disease control. It comes too late for the tens of thousands of dogs already slaughtered in Hanzhong, and in other cities and provinces down the years, but it gives hope that the future will be more enlightened, in order to improve the lives and make China a safer place to live for both dogs and people.
Animals Asia ready to help
Animals Asia is ready to help further this process, however we can. We will try and send delegates to attend future meetings, and to help with funding requests for local welfare group leaders to join this next meeting. We are also open to contributing towards education materials as appropriate.
Hanzhong culls subsiding
In spite of claims by various organisations that the culling in Hanzhong has officially stopped, Animals Asia has learned from local contacts in the area that no such announcement has been made by the government authorities there. There is, however, evidence that the situation has calmed, with local residents who own registered, vaccinated dogs once again being allowed to walk them on the streets, and with no dog killing teams recently in evidence.