Two police officers in Changsha, Hunan Province received numerous death threats on Tuesday after video of them beating a leashed golden retriever to death in front of a shocked crowd went viral, media reported.
The threats range from intimidating text messages to funerary wreaths being sent to the officers' homes after they were identified in a human flesh search, Changsha public security authorities told thepaper.cn.
Changsha police justified the officers' actions, releasing surveillance video showing the dog biting at least four people, including a 66-year-old man who reported the attack, thepaper.cn reported.
A police officer beats the dog with a long wooden club. Photo: CCTV
Animal rights activists have been gathering at the site of the controversial beating since Monday to leave flowers and mourn the dog's death after the video sparked outrage on social media, media reported.
The horrifying video shows officers clubbing the already bloodied and whimpering retriever in the head with a long pole on Sunday.
The dog had been left tied to a low railing along a sidewalk near a community in the city's Tianxin district.
According to thepaper.cn, the retriever was adopted from a nearby pet hospital and had most likely been abandoned only hours before the attacks on Sunday.
"The dog was probably aggressive because it didn't know its new owner," said an employee at the Companion Pet Hospital. "The owner didn't dare get near it and probably left it there."
Police said two officers from Tianxin district's Jinpenling substation responded after 66-year-old surnamed Leng reported he had been attacked.
"If it wasn't leashed, it could have bit my leg through," Leng later told media.
Police officials said the officers were unable to find the owner. They had no tranquilizers and could not use a handgun as a crowd had gathered.
"They had no choice but to use a club," said Peng Yong with the Tianxin police public relations department.
Pictured is the Golden Retriever after it was beaten to death. Photo: CCTV
Many disagree. "There were small children and elderly people watching," said a volunteer with the Changsha Small Animal Protection Association surnamed Duan, who had attended a memorial service on Monday. "They should have tried to find its owner. Who else would have leashed him there?"
Duan argued the situation was under control because the dog was tied up. She said officers should have contacted animal authorities, who would bring a veterinarian to assess whether the dog had rabies.
Some residents have expressed support for the officers. "Nobody was watching it. It was in a public place and posed a threat," said another resident and dog owner surnamed Dai. "If they didn't hit it, the police would have lost their jobs," he said.
According to a local regulation, dogs without tags and not in the company of owners are seen as "wild dogs" that are allowed to be caught or killed by city authorities.
Authorities are working to resolve the case, said Peng.