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Outrage after pets who travelled with Vietnam couple killed in Covid scare

Outrage after pets who travelled with Vietnam couple killed in Covid scare
The family’s 300km-long journey came to a cruel end when they learnt their pets were killed by government officials

A heart-warming story of a couple and their pets on a road trip in Vietnam came to a cruel end when they learned the animals were “brutally killed” by government officials.

Photos and videos of the Vietnamese couple and their pets on a cross-country road trip had gone viral on social media.

The couple became popular as many users said they had found a story to comfort them as the Covid-19 pandemic raged on in the country.

Pham Minh Hung, a 49-year-old bricklayer, had began a 300km-long journey with his wife, relatives and at least 12 dogs from Vietnam’s Long An province to their home town in the province of Ca Mau as some strict lockdown measures had been lifted.

On reaching their destination, Mr Pham and his wife tested positive for Covid and were in quarantine in hospital, when they found out their pets had allegedly been killed by government officials, who said they carried out the act fearing the animals could transmit Covid.

Heartbroken after losing their pets, Mr Pham told the BBC that at first he “didn’t want to believe that really happened… I couldn’t do anything to protect my kids [referring to his dogs]”.

“My wife and I cried so much that we couldn’t sleep,” he added.

The story of Mr Pham’s army of dogs and a cat held Vietnamese TikTok users captive as the family embarked on their journey on 8 October.

Pictures and videos of some of their dogs, wearing raincoats and perched on top of their luggage, had gone viral on social media.

The exact number of the animals is not known. Some reports said the couple and their relatives were travelling with 12 pets, while others said there were 17 pets in all, including one cat.

The couple had given two dogs to a volunteer once they reached Ca Mau while another had died, according to the BBC.

Public outrage and campaigns soon began and denounced the killings as “brutal and inhuman”.

Mr Pham said he was told by authorities that the pets were killed by local authorities after he and his wife contracted Covid. He alleged the pets were caned before being killed.

Nguyen Duy Khanh, Mr Pham’s wife, told Vice News, that the pets belonging to their relatives were drowned first and then burned.

“Two men put my dogs in bags, submerged them in water and then threw them in fire to burn,” Ms Nguyen told the news outlet, citing witnesses.

Tran Tan Cong, a local official, said at a press conference on Sunday that the decision to kill the animals immediately was a “necessary preventive measure” as it was a priority to control the spread of disease.

The brutal killings have set off a petition calling for an end to the practice of killing animals. The petition has racked up more than 150,000 signatures.

PETA Asia denounced the killing, calling authorities to “stop killing cats and dogs over Covid myths”.

There is no scientific evidence that pet animals can cause transmission of the coronavirus, according to studies. Animals can, however, sometimes contract Covid from humans. They generally remain asymptomatic or display mild symptoms.

Mr Pham now wants justice for the pets, which he says he raised as his own “kids” for about six years.