China Orders Communities to Cull Citizens' Pets Over Coronavirus Fears, Report Shows
Some communities told to 'deal with' animals immediately, others given five days
Citizens in China have been urged to get rid of their pets or face having them culled, amid fears the animals could further spread the deadly coronavirus in the country, according to a new report.
Village officials, residential committees, and companies from various provinces and municipalities have issued strict orders to locals as the death toll from the virus hit a staggering 259 on Saturday.
Local officials issued the instructions to cull animals after receiving orders from their superiors to tackle the epidemic, it has emerged.
One residential committee in Shaanxi instructed people to "consider the overall situation" and dispose of their dogs and cats immediately.
While another village in Hebei urged all households to "deal with" their pets within five days, otherwise, officials would "handle" them, according to notices supplied to The Daily Mail.
The news comes amid warnings from China's top health officials that pets will also need to be quarantined if they're exposed to coronavirus patients, triggering fresh fears that animals could also catch and further spread the disease.
The World Health Organisation, however, claims that it has not seen any evidence of the virus being passed onto cats or dogs, according to the Mail.
In Wuhan, the ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak, one neighborhood banned its residents from letting their cats, dogs, and livestock leave their homes.
In a flyer posted in the community, local officials threatened to catch, kill and bury the animals on the spot if they see any.
While the authority of one residential complex in Shanghai forbade its residents from feeding stray animals to "enforce the control and prevention of the epidemic," a separate document reads.
Similar commands have appeared in provinces and municipalities across the country, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Wuhan, Shanxi, and Shanghai, according to animal welfare organization Humane Society International.
The city of Anshan in Liaoning Province instructed all pet markets to stop trading temporarily and its police forces to "strictly restrict" residents from walking their pet dogs in public in an urgent notice released this week.
It also banned the locals from flying their pigeons and demanded all stray wild pigeons be culled as the outbreak accelerated.
Dr. Peter J. Li, China Policy Specialist of Humane Society International, said the organization had noticed memos issued by Chinese local authorities ordering the banning and even killing of dogs and stray cats.
"This is not the right approach for local authorities in China to deal with the national crisis that can be traced to China's out-of-control wildlife trade," Dr. Li told MailOnline.
"Companion animals did not contribute to the outbreak of SARS in 2002-2003," he added.
"They do not have anything to do with the Wuhan epidemic."
In Dr. Li's opinion, such orders could undermine the national effort to curb the outbreak by "pulling much-needed efforts and resources away from the real battleground."
"Their acts also show that many of China's local officials lack the competency to run the Chinese society," he concluded.
Prof. Li Lanjuan, a member of the senior expert team from China's National Health Commission, this week cautioned that pet owners should take extra care of their animals because the virus "spreads between mammals."
Prof. Li, who is also an academician from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday: "In this epidemic season, pet owners should strengthen their management of their pets."
She added: "If your dogs run around outside and come to contact with the outbreak or people infected with the virus, then your pets should also be put in quarantine.
"Because the epidemic spreads between mammals, therefore we should take precaution against other mammals."
Online accounts suggested that Prof. Li's comments prompted pet owners to abandon their animal companions, with some suggesting that dogs and cats had been smashed to death.
While these reports remain unverified, according to the World Health Organisation, no evidence has suggested that cats and dogs could also catch the coronavirus.
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.
The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city, experts confirmed on Sunday.
Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market.
It is not clear which animal was carrying the pneumonia-like illness but the market was home to stalls trading dozens of different species, including rats and wolf cubs.