A Vietnamese couple and their pack of pet dogs departed Long An province on a motorcycle as COVID-19 illnesses spread. They were later found to be COVID-19 positive. The owners were heartbroken to learn that the officials killed their 12 dogs. It was due to fears that the animals could spread the infection from their hospital beds.
“My wife and I cried so much that we couldn’t sleep,” Pham Minh Hung, 49-year-old bricklayer told the BBC.
“I didn’t want to believe that really happened… I couldn’t do anything to protect my kids,” he said, referring to his dogs.
Their experience was captured on the social media app TikTok. It later prompted widespread outrage in Vietnam, with more than 150,000 people signing a petition demanding a stop to the practice.
The most recent COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam has been the worst since the outbreak began.
Many migrant workers are unable to make a living as a result of a brutal lockdown in recent months, pushing at least a million to depart major cities. Among them were Pham Minh Hung, 35, and Nguyen Thi Chi Em, 35.
On the 8th of October, they set out on a 280-kilometer (173-mile) trek with their dogs and three relatives, who took three dogs and one cat with them.
The pair traveled to Khanh Hung in Ca Mau province, where a relative lives, because COVID-19 cases were not as prevalent there.
Many witnesses shared videos of the couple’s journey on social media, showing them riding their motorcycle with their pets and things heaped on top. Many people on social media congratulated the pair and wished them well on their journey.
When the couple used raincoats to shelter their pets in the heavy rain, several people admitted their hearts softened a little. A few even brought them water and food.
The pair began their journey with 15 canines, but after entering Ca Mau province, they surrendered two of them to a volunteer and one died. The remainder of the group carried on.
However, after arriving in Khanh Hung, the couple and their three relatives tested positive for COVID-19. Anyone traveling between provinces is necessary to undergo testing. They went to a hospital for treatment, while the animals were in quarantine.
Local officials, however, slaughtered their 12 dogs and the pets of their relatives without alerting them, according to state media.
The manner in which the animals died is unclear. An image of them being torched appeared in the official police publication.
“Disease control must be prioritized in the first place and the decision to kill the animals immediately was a necessary preventive measure,” local official Tran Tan Cong said during a press conference on Sunday.
“Cruel” and “Heartbreaking”
Many people reacted angrily to the decision, calling it “cruel” and “heartbreaking.”
Hong Anh, a member of the international animal rights organization Four Paws, termed it “barbaric” and said she would send a petition to the group.
According to Nguyen Hong Vu, a staff scientist at the City of Hope National Medical Centre in the United States, the killings were “unethical” and “ridiculous”. No standards are stating that pets must be killed if their owners are afflicted.
“There is no scientific evidence dogs and cats can be an intermediary for the transmission of Covid to humans. However, people with Covid can sometimes infect them,” Dr. Nguyen said.
Three cats and one dog were sick in a Texas study of 76 dogs and cats from 39 houses with Covid patients. The animals were either asymptomatic or had relatively minor symptoms. They all recovered quickly.
“There are multiple ways to make it right in this situation, such as quarantining them in a cage; contacting the owners’ relatives, or engaging a social organization to take care of them until the owners recover,” Dr. Nguyen said.
At the onset of the epidemic, Vietnam was hailing as a viral success. The World Health Organization (WHO) was praising its rapid response and widespread contact tracing. The Delta variation, on the other hand, has brought the country to its knees.
There are 840,000 cases, with more than 20,000 deaths. During the most recent wave, the bulk of cases were out.
Even though Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh declared last month that a plan to “live with the virus” should be in place, Vietnam has been aggressive in its viral control efforts.
Many people have been charged and convicted of spreading the virus, including some who have been sentenced to five years in prison.
A video of five police officers breaking into a flat in Binh Duong Province’s southern district went viral last month. As her small boy sobbed, they carried out a mother suspected of being exposed to Covid for a test. It sparked a major public outcry.
“I raised my kids for about six years, I want justice for my kids”
The authorities’ decision to euthanize the animals was surprising, according to observer Le Anh.
“The Vietnamese government has been putting the highest priority on the fight against the coronavirus. There is this slogan ‘Fighting this pandemic is like fighting the enemy. It means the country is at war. You cannot expect rational and humane behavior during a war.”
The saddest part for Mr. Pham was learning that others killed his beloved animals.
He is adamant about holding the authorities accountable.
“I raised my kids for about six years, I want justice for my kids,” he said from the hospital. The owners are truly heartbroken after 12 dogs were killed in such a way.