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Why Shanghai health workers are going after dogs

Recent video showed a health worker in the COVID-hit town bludgeoning a corgi dog to death

A Shanghai resident walks his dogs in an underground garage in a residential building. AFP

As China faces an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases, a number of videos have emerged from its capital, Shanghai, showing healthcare workers torturing dogs and cats.

In one of the toughest lockdowns, China’s pursuit of “zero-Covid” means anyone who catches the virus is sent to central facilities, sometimes for weeks, leaving their pets at the mercy of the local authorities.

Earlier this month, a video showed a health worker in Shanghai bludgeoning a corgi dog to death, prompting outcry among netizens.

Why do Chinese health workers torture dogs?

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, health officials are removing pet dogs that show symptoms of COVID.

Pets of people who test positive are collected in bags to be killed later, a Twitter user claimed.

Another video showed two healthcare workers dressed in PPE loading a vehicle with dogs.

Another Twitter user posted a video in which officials are seen catching a dog in a net. He claimed authorities captured the dog when its owner went out for a walk with his pet, flouting COVID restrictions.

This is not the first time that China has used inhuman means to fight the coronavirus. In January, Hong Kong culled around 2,000 hamsters after one tested positive for Covid-19, and at least three cats and a dog were among the animals killed by health workers on the mainland last year.

What are locals doing to save their pets?

As more videos surfaced online, local residents took matters into their own hands.

According to a report from France Media Agencypeople started forming networks of unpaid volunteers to rescue dogs and cats around Shanghai.

Erin Leigh, the lead organizer of an emergency rescue service that was formed to help pets who might otherwise fall victim to the virus’ hardline approach, has expanded her group from a pet sitting business animals to a network of thousands of unpaid volunteers.

“For some pets in the city, it’s a matter of life or death,” Leigh said, adding that owners felt “helpless.”

Across China, the urgency of local governments to eradicate every case of the virus has pushed animal welfare down the list of authorities’ priorities.

After the recent corgi murder video, Leigh said she was inundated with calls from owners “desperate to save their pets”.

As Shanghai officials stepped up control measures, Leigh and others rallied online to share information about pets left behind when people were placed in central quarantine.

A handful of administrators work around the clock to log cases of animals in distress, categorizing them by location and noting those most in need of food, shelter or other care.

The team helped hundreds of cats and dogs, as well as a few birds, fish and snakes.

Evacuated pets must be guided through the often baffling lockdown restrictions, sometimes traveling for hours to reach short-term homes just blocks away.

This week, rescuers spent an hour and a half transferring a dog from its owner’s apartment to another block just 600 meters (0.4 miles), according to Leigh.

With contributions from agencies

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