While viruses can mutate and spread from animals to man, there’s no evidence this has ever happened between dogs and humans, and we can’t catch diseases directly from dogs (or vice-versa). The only thing they can give us is fleas and parasites; however, the Chinese fear dogs are one of the reasons SARS is spreading, so people are beginning to kill their pets.

One man threw his Pekinese puppy out of the sixth-floor window of his apartment building because he thought it had SARS. The dog somehow survived, so the man went downstairs and buried it alive. A large number of dogs have been abandoned and people are calling veterinarians to ask about euthanizing their pets. Beijing’s official SARS telephone hotline says, “If doctors diagnose that (your dog) has SARS, the government will send somebody to your home and kill the dog and bury it deep in the ground.”

An official, who gave his name as Shi, says, “If you are really worried, don’t take the dog outside. You can contact your local Public Security Bureau, and we will come together and with permission will euthanize the dog in a very humane way. Without permission of the owners, we can’t knock on your door and kill your dog.”

There are no confirmed cases of SARS in dogs, and Dr. Zu Shu Xian of Anhui Medical University, says the fear of dogs with SARS is “blind group hysteria.”

Local politician Qu Gui Rui says of the man who threw his dog out the window, “He shouldn’t have buried it alive, but we did not dare to stop him. The Pekinese had stopped eating and drinking for days and had a high fever. People were afraid to be infected with SARS.”

Dog ownership is a new phenomenon for the Chinese, and dogs are still bred for food in many Asian countries. Zhang Luping, who runs a Beijing animal shelter, says, “There is not an authoritative organization in Beijing to refute the rumors and tell people that pets like dogs cannot carry and transmit the virus. Some people want to accept the rumors.”

We all need a little more wisdom in our lives.

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