After Hong Kong Dog Passed Away, Chinese Animal Groups Sign Open Letter Urging Pet Owners Not To Abandon Or Cull Dogs In Response To Coronavirus

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Photo by HSI

Sixty-five animal charities and pet shelters from across China have signed an open letter calling for compassion rather than cruelty to dogs and cat, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. News that an elderly dog in Hong Kong belonging to a coronavirus patient has died following weeks of quarantine and testing, has raised fears of an increase in pet abandonment. Although the dog ultimately tested negative, and the World Health Organization has made it clear that there is no evidence that dogs can infect humans, animal groups across China remain vigilant, with some shelters reporting higher than usual numbers of animals found wandering the streets.

An English translation of the letter supplied by the Chinese groups can be found below.

Groups in Beijing, Dalian, Shanghai, and beyond have appealed for people not to abandon or harm their pets, and urge local police forces and community officers not to carry out lethal culls of dogs. Last month there were a number of recorded incidents of dogs being brutally beaten to death in the street in Yongjia County, Zhejiang, and in Chengdu and Nanchong in Sichuan province. Most recently a video emerged of a pet dog being roughly caught by the neck by local dog catchers outside a Shanghai apartment block, and swung through the air into a cage on the back of a truck. The local government in Shanxi, North China, has also called for the closure of all pet hospitals and public dog walking.

Dr Peter Li, China Policy Expert at Humane Society International (HSI), an organization that works in China on companion animal protection, said in an email sent to WAN, “It’s critical that citizens and officials alike do not over-react or respond in a way that will cause harm or injury to animals. There is also no evidence that dogs can pass the virus to people. Family pets do not deserve to be turned out on the street, or beaten, or denied exercise or access to veterinary care.”

Dezhi Yu, Director of Vshine which signed the letter said, “Our team has been responding to help calls from different cities where local animal lovers have taken in or have spotted abandoned dogs and cats which we suspect were not allowed to be kept in their apartments, or these might be dogs or cats released by the breeders.”

Wendy Higgins, Director of International Media at Humane Society International, said, “It is very sad news that the elderly dog in Hong Kong has passed away. It must be remembered though that he ultimately tested negative for the virus, showed no signs of illness throughout, and at 17 years old it is possible that the stress of weeks of quarantine, testing, and being separated from his owner, contributed to his passing. We simply don’t know, but what we do know is that the World Health Organization’s advice is clear, that there is no evidence dogs can pass the virus to people.”

HSI has been supporting Chinese groups in coordinating public education efforts since the Wuhan coronavirus broke out, as well as helping HSI’s Chinese partner group Vshine in rescuing abandoned dogs, as well as providing food and water for dogs and cats left behind when people have been evacuated and not able to return.

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