At the same time that the country is drafting an animal welfare law that would ban widespread killing of dogs, a Chinese city has killed 36 000 stray and pet dogs in an effort to eliminate rabies. Since late May 2009, more than 6 000 people in Hanzhong have been bitten or scratched (presumably by dogs), and 12 have died of rabies. Certainly, this indicates multiple problems. One is the massive number of bites and scratches. Contributing factors probably include a large stray animal population, limited routine animal control efforts, and inadequate education of the public regarding bite avoidance. The number of injuries and deaths certainly indicates that an aggressive response is needed. However, there is little evidence that culls (i.e. mass killings of this type) have any effect on controling rabies and animal-associated injuries. Efforts are probably better directed at other forms of population control, vaccination of stray and pet dogs, and education of the public to keep stray dogs away and reduce the risk of bites. These types programs cost money, but the costs of treating 6 000 bites and 12 fatal rabies infections can be enormous. I don’t know how many people received post-exposure treatment for rabies, or what such treatment costs in China, but it’s estimated to cost about $1500 per person in North America. That would pay for a lot of rabies vaccine for dogs.
Photo: Hanzhong, China (source: www.panoramio.com)