Chinese local officials have culled residents’ pets family by family to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to animal activists.
Widespread fears of pets being able to spread the disease began last month after a Chinese health expert claimed animals needed to be quarantined during the outbreak to stop the spread of the disease.
However, the World Health Organization dismissed the claims suggesting there is no evidence to show the virus being transmitted to pets.
Community officers in a county in south-western China’s Sichuan Province knocked on doors and ordered villagers to hand over their pets. Nanchong Missing Animal Aid Group claimed the animals were killed moments later on the street.
The organisation said the campaign was carried out at the township of Longcan in Peng’an County in Nanchong.
A distressing video shared by the group on its account on Twitter-like Weibo shows a number of bloodied dogs, thought to be dead, lying at the back of a truck.
It is said that the pooches belonged to families from the villages of Qianqiubang.
Another clip, shared by an animal activist, shows one officer who was wearing a face mask touching a lifeless dog by the side of a street while a few of his colleagues watched on.
The activist claimed that the cruel campaign was organised by the Communist Party Secretary of Longcan Town.
‘Stop slaughtering pets in the midst of the epidemic. Enforce law in a civilised way,’ the activist condemned on Weibo.
Animal rights group PETA urged Chinese officials not to use the coronavirus outbreak as ‘an excuse to abuse animals’.
The group’s spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Violent acts like this one don’t address the public health problems. They only cause more ocnflicts in society.’
Just last week, community officers of another residential complex in Nanchong were filmed clubbing stray dogs to death in broad daylight.
In a video supplied to MailOnline by animal lovers, one worker can be seen repeatedly hitting a pooch with a wooden rod.
Two stray dogs were killed at around 9am last Tuesday near Wenfeng Road, Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue said.
Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue demanded relevant officers halt their act immediately.
‘Before the matter escalates, please stop the atrocity of harming animals,’ it wrote on its official account on Weibo.
Officials of Nanhu Committee, which supervised the complex, denied online allegations.
They claimed that the video showed the workers killing a stray dog which had bitten some residents and caused panic in the community, according to a notice shown to MailOnline.
Similar pets culling campaigns have also been observed in Chengdu and Wenzhou.
Communities around the country allegedly started to order the locals to ‘get rid of’ their pets – or risk having them culled – from last month amid fears that animals could also pick up the coronavirus.
The fears were sparked by comments made by one of China’s top experts for infectious diseases.
Prof. Li Lanjuan, a member of the senior expert team from China’s National Health Commission, warned that pets would also need to be quarantined should they be exposed to coronavirus patients.
She cautioned in an interview with state media CCTV that pet owners should take extra care of their animals because the virus ‘spreads between mammals’.
World Health Organization (WHO) said there is no evidence to show that the virus can be passed onto cats or dogs.
In a message posted on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, the group advised people to wash their hands after holding their pets to reduce the risks of catching bacteria from the animals.
Animal welfare organisation Humane Society International said: ‘The advice by the World Health Organisation that there is no evidence dogs and cats can be infected with the virus, needs to be heard throughout China.’
Originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the new coronavirus – known as COVID-19 – has infected more than 74,000 people inside China.
The government has locked down tens of millions of people in several virus-hit cities, extended Lunar New Year holidays and pulled flights in a scramble to contain the virus.
Hubei, situated in central China, accounts for more than 80 per cent of the confirmed cases and 95 per cent of the deaths globally.
Overnight, the Hubei health officials reported 349 new cases out of a nationwide total of 394 and 108 of the 114 new deaths across China.
The figures are the lowest daily tolls in a month and Beijing said outbreak control efforts ‘are working’.
Globally, the coronavirus epidemic has killed at least 2,129 people and infected more than 75,700, and has spread to at least two dozen countries.