A pet dog was beaten to death by a health worker in Shanghai in an incident that sparked fury online, offering a glimpse into the growing frustrations of locked-down residents in China’s Covid-19 hotspot.
A video of the beating at a residential compound in the Pudong district of the city was met with horror after going viral Wednesday on Chinese social media.
The clip, which appears to have been filmed by a resident of a nearby building, shows a Covid prevention worker – dressed head to toe in protective gear – chasing the corgi down a street and hitting it three times with a shovel. It then shows the dog lying motionless.
In two photos posted online, the corgi is seen running after a bus said to be taking its owner to an isolation facility. Another photo shows its body being taken away in a plastic bag.
The video and photos have been reposted and deleted by multiple users. CNN cannot identify the original uploader of the video.
The corgi’s owner was in quarantine at the time of the attack, according to state-run magazine China News Weekly, and had released the dog onto the streets after being unable to find anyone to care for the animal in his absence.
All of Shanghai’s 25 million residents are under lockdown until further notice and face several rounds of mass testing. Those who test positive face mandatory isolation.
“In the end, I thought I could let (the corgi) loose outside to become a stray, at least it wouldn’t starve to death,” the owner wrote in an online group, explaining he had no dog food left at home, according to China News Weekly. “I never thought once we had left, it would be beaten to death.”
He claimed a neighborhood committee had declined to help care for the dog, the magazine reported. The committee said it was concerned the corgi could have been infected too.
“At that time, the workers did not consider (the matter) very comprehensively. We will communicate with the owner and offer compensation later,” the committee said in response, according to China News Weekly.
CNN has made several attempts to contact the committee.
The incident spread widely across Chinese social media platform Weibo. One hashtag about the topic was viewed tens of millions of times before it was removed from the highly censored site. The footage prompted shock and anger, with many calling the dog’s killing cruel and unnecessary.
International health authorities have said the risk of transmission from animals to humans is possible but low, and there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of Covid-19 to humans.
And China’s National Health Commission has stated there is so far no evidence of people catching Covid from pets.
“What use is compensation? That is a life,” said one popular post on Weibo.
“Pets are family too,” another user wrote – a sentiment echoed by many others.
Some even voiced something once considered unthinkable within the country: that China’s zero-Covid battle had gone too far.
‘We would rather coexist with a virus’
Throughout the pandemic, China has adhered to a zero-Covid policy that aims to stamp out all clusters and chains of transmission through border controls, mass testing, quarantines and strict lockdowns. It has at times resorted to extreme measures, including separating infected toddlers from parents and barring residents from leaving their homes for weeks on end.
This policy has been broadly popular among the public, with many feeling it was necessary to avoid the high death tolls and economic collapses seen in other countries like the United States or the United Kingdom.
This isn’t the first time a pet has been killed for fear it carries the virus. Three cats met the same fate last September, and another corgi last November. However, at the time, reaction on social media was mixed – though some expressed sympathy and anger, others argued killing the animals was necessary given the pandemic.
This time, the reaction appears vastly different, with most comments online condemning the killing – perhaps a sign of the public’s thinning patience as living conditions deteriorate under lockdown.
Many Shanghai residents have complained of being unable to access basic supplies like food and medicine. There have been incidents reported of non-Covid patients with other emergencies dying before they could receive medical attention. And these frustrations have only been exacerbated by mixed messaging from Shanghai’s government, which had insisted just two weeks ago that it had no plans for a citywide lockdown.
For some, the corgi’s death was the last straw.
One Weibo user mocked the neighborhood committee’s response: “It’s been two years, and they still think (the corgi) has the virus. Are these people not from Earth?”
Another user put it more bluntly: “We would rather coexist with a virus than with this vicious and perverted person.”