At first, the dog in the video appears cheerful, panting heavily with its tongue out. But then the camera pans — to the moving car pulling the dog by a string, to the dog’s paws red with blood and its skin chafed near to the bone.
The SUV was spotted dragging the dog down a street in China’s Shandong province Monday, and alarmed passersby stopped the driver.
By then, the South China Morning Post reported, the dog’s body had gone limp, and it died soon after. Impassioned onlookers turned on the driver, beating him until authorities arrived. Five men involved in the scuffle, including the driver, were taken into custody.
On WeChat and Weibo, China’s social media networks, the video went viral. The same day, reports surfaced of a man in Guandong province sharing photos of a dog splattered with blood and boasting on a messaging app that he had tortured and “killed around 50 dogs.”
Upon seeing the screenshots of his messages online, a woman who volunteers at a local dog shelter arrived at the man’s house with police and fellow volunteers. She told Shenzhen News that the man, Wang Moping, had previously inquired about adopting a dog from them. At his house, they found a bleeding German shepherd with missing teeth and rushed it to a veterinarian.
The screenshots of Wang’s messages, and photos of the subsequent rescue, were shared thousands of times. Netizens widely condemned the people behind both acts of abuse.
“He should be the one tied to a car and dragged,” one Weibo user said of the Shandong driver, whose photograph, license plate number and phone number were shared online.
“Death to the driver, death to his whole family,” wrote another.
“It’s sick!” Chen Yan, a 52-year-old Shanghai resident, told the Chinese website Sixth Tone. “You should never hurt a dog, even if you don’t love it.”
These responses point to China’s growing animal rights movement, which has become increasingly mainstream in recent years even as other forms of activism are being suppressed.
As Peter J. Li, a China policy adviser with Humane Society International, noted in Foreign Affairs in March, animal rights activists are beginning to “get their way” in a country that issued a protocol for humane slaughter techniques in 2009. Although implementation has been “spotty,” Li regards such moves as telling progress.
“In many ways, animal welfare movements fall in line with China’s goal to modernize, both economically and culturally,” he wrote.
Like the activists that called on the Chinese government to change farming practices, netizens are now asking for laws that would punish alleged animal abusers such as Wang.
Commenters on Weibo and WeChat said anyone who tortured dogs should be put in jail. China’s first animal protection law was drafted in 2009, but it has yet to be adopted.
Outside of legal recourse, activists have won a spate of smaller victories recently. Earlier this week, a group rescued a truckload of dogs likely bound for slaughter in Hebei. Ahead of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival this June, activists gathered 11 million signatures against the fringe tradition, claiming that many of the dogs used for meat were pets that had been snatched from their owners.