An investigator for a Chinese animal welfare group captured the moment that a corgi was fatally kicked and beaten by a group of medical staff employed by a company that treats pets.
The video, posted on social media by a group called Animals Asia, has ignited public outrage. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said it was investigating the death of a cocker spaniel in Shandong Province.
Animal welfare groups say they have recorded dozens of cases where employees of major pet-care companies administer cruel and ineffective treatments. Often those companies use paid veterinarians to treat tens of thousands of pets, according to Animals Asia, an animal welfare organization based in Hong Kong. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said it was still reviewing the Shandong case, according to state media.
The recording from Shandong was uploaded Sunday to Animals Asia’s Facebook page and has been viewed more than 20 million times.
“After repeatedly asking staff for a reaction, I found the photographer of this video clearly terrified and flinching, unable to stop his camera,” the organization’s president, Bonnie Beaver, wrote in an accompanying post.
The incident happened in the Shengju province of the eastern Chinese province, Animal Asia said. The video was posted by an investigator for the organization. He was showing his camera to the employees on behalf of Animals Asia, who were doing an undercover investigation.
Beaver said the abuse was witnessed by an animal welfare employee in the group’s Shandong office. She confirmed that the group had written an official letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, asking for a full investigation. She said she had already received a verbal apology from the workers, who were apparently reprimanded.
“We’ve already received a response from the Ministry,” Beaver said, adding that the Ministry had suggested that Animals Asia keep the matter under wraps because of the Beijing Olympics, the upcoming National People’s Congress, and security fears. The Chinese government has been criticized in recent years for monitoring internet video platforms and blocking access to websites that contain the user-generated content.
Other animal welfare workers are providing support to Beaver, especially those who have run into challenges in the area of investigating in China. “People in the field get in trouble,” said James Joseph, founder of Tails of Hope Animal Rescue Fund in San Diego. “You should really be exploring what they are doing before you go on their farm.”
Around the same time the Shandong incident was posted online, veterinary professional association the China Animal and Veterinary Medical Association began an investigation into the canine abuse that occurred at a poultry farm, which it said affected more than 10 million chickens.
The group also announced this week that its dog cruelty advisory committee would conduct an investigation into what it called the “inhumane and cruel practices” of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The APA was founded by the U.S. government and maintains a network of more than 70 animal welfare and veterinary organizations.
Beaver said that other groups that worked with Animals Asia had reported cases of “so-called therapeutic animal care” in the years since it was established.
On its website, the group’s website, Animals Asia outlines a litany of “novelty” treatments for pets, including slow breathing or seizure features, that can cause serious medical complications. It accuses the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of attacking the practice and of encouraging people to become “Pet MDs.”
In a statement, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals disputed the group’s claim.
“We are aware of the viral video, which has sparked outrage. Although it does not represent the opinion of our organization, we are following up on the matter and have taken note of the concerns of the public,” the group said.
Joseph, who has sent nearly 1,000 letters to his pet-care employers complaining about a company’s treatments, said he believed that large companies engaged in the practice would “poison their reputations” unless they acted to correct the problem.