A US animal protection group said yesterday that it would give China US$100,000 to vaccinate dogs against rabies if it promises to immediately stop the mass slaughter of dogs in areas where humans have died from the disease.
"There are far better ways of addressing rabies control to promote the safety of your citizens, the good reputation of China and the welfare of dogs," Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the US, said in an open letter to China's ambassador in Washington.
The financial aid was offered to help set up a rabies control program in Jining, a city in Shandong Province, where officials last week killed thousands of dogs after 16 people died of rabies over an eight-month period.
An official with the Ministry of Agriculture's media affairs office declined to immediately comment and asked to first see a Chinese translation of the Humane Society's statement. He refused to give his name.
Officials in Mouding, a county in the southern province of Yunnan, last month clubbed to death more than 50,000 dogs after rabies killed three people in the area.
The killings provoked unusually pointed criticism in Chinese state media, while the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for a boycott of Chinese products.
The official newspaper Legal Daily published an editorial calling the killings an "extraordinarily crude, cold-blooded and lazy way for the government to deal with epidemic disease."
Xinhua said in a separate editorial that the slaughter was "the only way out of a bad situation."
The Humane Society said the money was conditional on China agreeing to stop the mass killing of dogs and accept the group's help in establishing a nationwide rabies control program that relies on vaccinations.
The government says 70 percent of rural households have dogs, but just 3 percent are vaccinated against the disease.
The Beijing Morning Post yesterday reported that Qingdao, a major port city in Shandong Province, was carrying out a campaign to vaccinate 40,000 dogs between now and the end of September. The newspaper said owners who did not comply would be fined.
The Chinese Health Ministry reported 2,375 rabies deaths last year nationwide.
The rabies virus attacks the nervous system and usually kills humans within a week of the development of symptoms.