A group of Chinese community officers have been accused of beating stray dogs to death in broad daylight in the name of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus which has killed 1,018 people.
In a video supplied to MailOnline by animal lovers, one worker can be seen repeatedly hitting a pooch with a huge wooden club.
The horrifying incident took place this morning at a residential complex in the city of Nanchong in Sichuan Province, according to activists.
Two stray dogs were killed at around 9am near Wenfeng Road, Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue said.
MailOnline has decided not to show the footage of the attack due to its graphic nature.
A separate clip shows workers taking away the dogs’ dead bodies after killing them.
The group told MailOnline that residents of the complex, Guibi Garden, were informed yesterday by the community officers that no pet dogs would be allowed outside.
‘As long as [we]see a dog in the complex, no matter if it is on the lead or not, we will beat it to death,’ the officers were quoted saying.
The group condemned the officers’ ‘atrocious’ act.
‘At the crucial point of fighting the epidemic, the management office and community officers should have disinfected the neighbourhood, recorded information of visitors, supervised suspected patients under quarantine, or even given care to the psychological stress and trauma residents got from the epidemic.
‘But instead, [they]ignored citizens’s love and appeal for animals and killed lives at will without giving notice or seeking permission.’
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, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
One volunteer from the group told MailOnline that it was hard for him and other animal lovers to get to the scene in a timely fashion because the residential complex would not let outsiders enter easily during the outbreak.
He said the two dogs had been healthy and obedient, and that kind residents had fed them an hour before the incident.
The volunteer also showed MailOnline a notice issued by local authorities in response to the matter.
Officials of Nanhu Committee, which supervised the complex, denied online allegations.
They claimed that the video showed the workers culling a stray dog which had bitten some residents and caused panic in the community.
The statement thanked netizens’ understanding and said the workers in question had been reprimanded for killing the animal. It stated that the dog should have been taken to a shelter instead.
The news comes after communities around the country allegedly ordered citizens to get rid of their pets – or risk having them culled – amid fears that animals could also pick up the deadly disease.
World Health Organization (WHO), however, says that it has not seen any evidence of the virus being passed onto cats or dogs.
The widespread 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, last month warned that pets would also need to be quarantined should they be exposed to coronavirus patients.
Authorities in China are now trying desperately to stop people from throwing away their pets.
Animal welfare organisation Humane Society International (HSI) condemned the Chinese workers’ behaviour.
HSI’s spokesperson Wendy Higgins said: ‘Any evidence of animals being beaten to death in the street is extremely distressing, no matter what the circumstances.
‘If these videos do indeed show dogs being brutally killed in China out of an unwarranted fear of spreading coronavirus, then it is doubly upsetting.
‘Community officers should be charged with disseminating accurate and scientifically supported information to the public at this time, not in carrying out cruel and pointless culls of dogs.
‘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.’
Apart from the coronavirus, the city of Nanchong is also fighting bird flu.
China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on Sunday reported that 1,840 out of the 2,497 domesticated birds on a farm in Xichong County were killed by the H5N6 strain of avian influenza.
Local authorities culled 2,261 birds as a result and safely disposed their carcasses – as well as those of the birds killed by the influenza – according to the notice.
The Ministry did not specify on which day the outbreak happened.
The coronavirus epidemic has so far claimed more than 1,018 lives and infected more than 43,130 people in 28 countries and territories around the world – but nearly 99 per cent of infections have been in China.
A total of 103 people died in a single day in China’s Hubei province on Monday – the highest toll recorded in any one 24-hour period since the outbreak began in December.
It comes the same day as WHO experts and scientists have finally arrived in China to help officials there contain and study the outbreak which has now struck at least 42,729 people worldwide.