Footage of a pet dog being killed by health workers after its owner had been taken into quarantine recently went viral online. The incident, which happened on Nov 12 in Shangrao, Jiangxi Province, was captured by a security camera in the owner’s apartment while it was being disinfected.
After the footage led to outrage on social media, the Emergency Headquarter for the Prevention and Control of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the city’s Xinzhou District issued a document stating that due to inadequate communication between the police, health workers and the dog’s owner, the dog was treated as a subject that needed to be “disposed” during the disinfection.
Reacting to the news, both Changzhi Animal Protection Association of Shanxi Province and the Beijing Aita Animal Protection Charitable Foundation appealed to the local government in Shangrao to disclose more information, and the former filed an administrative public interest case against the local government on Nov 18. The legal proceedings have gained support from China Small Animal Protection Association, which called for a nationwide system to look after people’s pets when they’re in quarantine.
He Qian, president of Changzhi Animal Protection Association, told the China Philanthropy Times that pets are a person’s property and should be legally protected; hence the actions of the health workers should be seen as illegal. She also mentioned that the purpose of the court case was to advocate for the rational treatment and humane care of pets during the pandemic — and the need to stop this from happening anywhere else in China.
The Aita Foundation agreed with He’s statement. In the organization’s appeal to the local government for more information, it requested the publication of the document authorizing the “harmless disposal” of pets, as well as the relevant laws and regulations the policy is based on. Meanwhile, details were also requested on how pets should be treated, what types of pets should be “disposed” of, and the number of pets that have been “disposed” of and what communication the government has had with pet owners.
So far, the local government in Shangrao has not responded.
Article 3 of the current Animal Epidemic Prevention Law stipulates that the term “animal epidemic prevention” includes prevention and extermination of animal epidemics as well as the quarantine of animals and animal products. However, the law excludes animals that are alive. Moreover, no evidence has been produced that the pet dog in Shangrao was infected before it was killed.
The past decade has seen an increase in the number of pets in China. Data shows that between 2010 and 2020, the number of pets rose from 59 million to nearly 200 million. But COVID-19 has posed a particular issue concerning pets: when people are quarantined, how should their pets be dealt with? Currently, there is no national policy so different areas respond with their own measures.
Lu Hongzhou, a member of the National Health Commission’s Expert Committee of Disease Prevention and Control, said that there have been no cases of the virus being transmitted by pets. Although in 2020, the World Health Organization warned, according to evidence from Denmark, that the virus could be transmitted between humans and minks.
“While there is no evidence to prove that pets can transmit the virus to people, isolating the animals is a sufficient measure. During isolation, the animals can be closely monitored, but once it is clear they are not infected, they should be returned to their homes. That is a scientific attitude,” said Lu.
Guan Li, director of Zhengzhou Aixin Guide Dog Service Center, told the China Philanthropy Times that pets should be considered personal property, therefore health workers have no right to “harmlessly dispose” a pet dog without the consent of its owner. Moreover, many pet owners treat their pets as part of the family.
“We do not have a national animal isolation system yet. However, people could be allowed to isolate with their pets or different pets could be put into isolation together, or the community could take care of pets when an owner is in quarantine.”