The brutal beating of a quarantined woman’s pet corgi by health workers in China has led to outrage online amid ongoing debate over whether Beijing’s zero-tolerance attitude toward the coronavirus pandemic has gone too far.
Instead, surveillance camera footage depicted the workers beating the corgi before it ran from the room, while a hazmat suit-clad health worker said that the dog would be “dealt with” and taken away in a yellow biohazard bag.
A Weibo hashtag related to the corgi killing has been viewed some 240 million times, generating more than 68,000 comments. While some justified extreme measures in the name of stamping out the virus, many others expressed shock and anger over the perceived callousness of the health workers.
“I stopped watching the video after the first strike,” one user wrote. “My heart breaks. If I were the owner, how sad and miserable I would be.”
District authorities said in a Saturday statement that the dog had undergone a “harmless disposal process.” The health workers apologized for “failing to fully communicate” with the owner and had been removed from their jobs, the local government said, adding that the owner had purportedly forgiven them.
In a sign that the incident had gotten national attention, Hu Xijin, editor of the nationalist state media tabloid Global Times, attempted to downplay the killing. He wrote on Weibo that while he “perfectly empathizes” with the strong feelings, the coronavirus pandemic situation in that city was “stressful.” As of Monday, Shangrao had reported 81 coronavirus cases, of which the vast majority were asymptomatic.
According to one forecast, there will be at least 170 million pet cats and dogs in China by 2024, up from over 99 million in 2019. Many owners are affluent, young city dwellers and local governments have attempted to accommodate their needs during the pandemic. One district government in Beijing pledged to send pets for caretaking if owners had to quarantine in a facility; authorities in Shanghai have allowed people to take their pets into quarantine, in a move that was widely praised online.
To combat a current coronavirus outbreak that has spread to nearly 20 provinces, China is doubling down on hard line pandemic control ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. Thousands of people visiting Shanghai Disneyland over Halloween were locked into the amusement park and tested for the coronavirus after a visitor was diagnosed with it.
There have been reported instances of pets testing positive for the coronavirus after coming into close contact with infected humans, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of pets transmitting the virus to people is “low.”