Urban management personnel in north China denied Sunday they buried dozens of stray dogs alive, as netizens have alleged on the Internet to spark outcry among pet lovers.
"As we have no proper place to house stray dogs, captors temporarily put them into a discarded pit near a garbage dump while they were coordinating to rent a venue, so that they would not disturb residents," said the urban management bureau of Alxa Left Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Proper arrangements would be made for these captured stray dogs after a place or feeder is found, said the bureau.
The bureau explained that they launched a campaign on April 21 to capture stray dogs, which cause injuries of people or sheep, traffic accidents and transmit infectious diseases.
More than 90 street dogs were netted from April 21 to 23, said the bureau.
The welfare of stray animals was in the spotlight after a post on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, appealed for help on Wednesday night to save scores of stray dogs trapped in the big pit.
"Home for Stray Animals in Yinchuan," a non-governmental organization (NGO), posted pictures of the dogs in the pit, including a close-up of a baby dog.
The photos were taken by a woman, surnamed Tan, who went to the site near Wuba Expressway with five friends on Wednesday afternoon to search for a pet dog.
"We saw around a hundred dogs in a pit, but we could not get down into it because it was too deep," Tan told Xinhua, adding that they tried to save the dogs using ropes. They saved more than 20.
She said that the dogs must have been in the hole for a long time, because they were thirsty.
A volunteer at the NGO told Xinhua that eight members of the agency went to rescue the dogs at around 2:00 am on Thursday, only to find the pit had been filled. Several dogs were running around, said the volunteer, without giving her name.
"The pit was five to six meters deep. We could not dig as we didn't have proper tools," she said.
A number of dead dogs were retrieved from the pit at around 6:00 pm on Friday.
The bureau said after hearing some tried to pull stray dogs out of the pit with ropes and other tools, urban personnel arrived to find 17 remaining dogs, with six already dead. They moved the other 11 dogs alive to a factory yard.
Rumors on the Internet said that the local Chengguan, or urban management officers, had buried the dogs alive.
The incident has angered many, and a post about it had been forwarded more than 18,000 times by Sunday morning. Chinese netizens called the act "inhumane" and "shameful".
Stories regarding stray animals have made the headlines, causing a wave of public fury.
In May 2013, dozens of stray cats were abused and slaughtered in a residential district in Beijing, with the fur of the animals almost completely plucked out.
Five months later, a poster on a wall in a district in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, alleged that some people had deliberately put poison in the area and killed a dozen cats. The poster warned people to take care of their pets.
The government should step in and tackle the problems regarding oft-neglected stray animals, said a source with the Ta Foundation, a Beijing-based NGO for strays.