Chinese president Hu Jintao halts canine confiscations
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2007:
BEIJING–Chinese President Hu Jintao in late November 2006
personally “intervened to end a national crackdown on dogs,”
reported Jane Cai of the South China Morning Post, who made the
action known to the world on December 13.
“One petitioner said Mr. Hu’s chief secretary told her that
the president had read her two petitions, signed by more than 60,000
people, calling for an end to the campaign,” Cai wrote. “She said
Mr. Hu was unhappy about the complaints and international media
coverage of the campaign, and had put a stop to the program late
last month,” about four weeks after it started. “A government
official confirmed Mr Hu had ordered a halt after reading the
letters,” Cai continued.
Hu’s order most directly affected a round-up of unlicensed
and large dogs underway in Beijing since the end of October, but
followed almost a year of global petitioning and e-mailing in
response to dog massacres undertaken earlier in response to rabies
outbreaks in the southern and coastal regions of China–mostly in the
areas where dogs are often eaten.
Word of Hu’s intervention trickled out after the Beijing
Public Security Bureau “took several dozen Chinese and foreign
journalists to inspect a dog pound on the outskirts of the city
where some 600 abandoned, oversized, and confiscated dogs are
housed,” reported Alexa Olesen of Associated Press. “The tour was
an apparent attempt to ease public anger over the campaign,”
Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson and Grace
Gabriel, Asia director for the International Fund for Animal
Welfare, acknowledged on December 20 that the dog confiscations had
Gabriel said IFAW learned that the confiscations were
suspended from the Beijing Police Department on December 7.
“Four days later,” Gabriel added, “on December 11th,
animal welfare groups and the international and local media were
invited to tour the police pound. Although IFAW has obtained
pictures of impounded animals in the past, access has been
restricted for the past eight years,” Gabriel alleged,
contradicting reports ANIMAL PEOPLE has received from the Beijing
Small Animal Protection Association, which started a volunteer
program at the pound in October 2003, and has sent several photos of
volunteers grooming dogs.
“It was apparent that the pound had recently been renovated,”
Gabriel said. “The facility was barren, but comparable to shelters
elsewhere. Many dogs wore collars and tags, indicating that they
had been owned.
“IFAW urged the police to return the owned dogs to their
rightful homes,” Gabriel said. “We fully accept they would want to
impose conditions on registration and vaccination, and that those
who don’t comply with spaying and neutering may be fined. However,
the return of many of these dogs is not possible under the current
regulations because they represent breeds banned by the Beijing Dog
Regulation, or because they exceed the size limit [of 35 millimeters
in height] set by the authorities.”
Robinson agreed that the Beijing pound was “of acceptable
standards. However, obviously this is not an acceptable solution
following such a reactive confiscation,” Robinson said, “and we
continue to ask for an amnesty in order that these dogs are returned
to their owners, to be muzzled in public areas, with humane muzzles
we are donating, whilst new regulations are implemented. The
regulations as they stand are seriously flawed by limiting the size
of dogs rather than the breed,” although some large breeds are
completely prohibited, “and this too needs to be addressed,”
To Lindsay Beck of Reuters, Robinson added, “The
regulations have been in place since 2003, and the government has to
take some responsibility for the fact that they’ve been ignored.
There are pet shops and pet markets everywhere selling large dogs,
and no one has cracked down [before],” Robinson claimed.
The Beijing dog law enforcement drive began after more
than six months of dog massacres amid rabies panics in the regions
afflicted with rabies. So-called “meat dogs” are not vaccinated,
and relatively few pets are vaccinated outside of Beijing, which
claims a vaccination compliance rate of about 50%. But killing as
many as 50,000 dogs in the vicinity of some rabies outbreaks has not
stopped the spread of the disease.
Reports that up to 17% of vaccinated dogs in China may still
be susceptible to rabies have caused officials to re-examine the
manufacture and sale of fake and ineffective vaccines, a recurring
problem. Police in 2005 found 40,000 boxes of fake rabies vaccine in
Guangdong, for example, after two boys died of rabies despite
receiving prompt post-exposure inoculations.
The State Food & Drug Administ-ration on December 14, 2006
announced a renewed effort to stop the makers and distributors of
“The official Xinhua news agency said that sub-standard
rabies vaccines had been responsible for several deaths recently. It
did not elaborate,” summarized Reuters.
The Ministry of Health announced earlier that “Rabies killed
more people in China than any other infectious disease for the 6th
consecutive month in November 2006,” Reuters said. “There were 270
deaths caused by rabies in November 2006, out of 743 deaths due to
infectious disease on the Chinese mainland, according to the Ministry
of Health. In all, 354 people were reportedly bitten by rabid
animals, the Ministry said.”