Buried Alive: 100 Dogs Die While Just Four Survive Mass Stray Cull (PICTURES)

Animal welfare campaigners in China claim to have discovered hundreds of stray dogs - including a number of puppies - buried alive in a mass grave.

Commonly regarded as vermin by locals in the area of Azuiqi in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the creatures are likely to have suffered terribly before they died of suffocation.

Only one puppy and three adult dogs survived while over 100 others died a horrible death, Central European News (CEN) writes.

Over 100 dogs were hurled into the mass grave

They were hurled into a 20-foot deep ditch that had been dug using heavy machinery, indicating it might have been government officials behind the killings, say animal rights activists from local charity Chinese Animal Protection Network.

Once inside, the animals were unable to climb out. Some suffered injuries as they were dumped in the hole, then the earth was simply shovelled in on top of them.

Campaigner Li Yeh, 28, told CEN: "We had a call from a member of the public that there were some dogs in a hole, but when we went there the next day it had been filled in. We could even hear some whimpering when we started to dig down."

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This puppy was one of just a handful of survivors

One animal charity worker said: "Even by local standards this was a barbaric and heartless act. When volunteers arrived the next day they saw the trench filled in but heard the plaintive cries of some dogs near the surface. A handful were rescued, severely traumatised but alive."

The activists suspect it was officers of the local Chengguan police who buried them earlier this week. Officially called the City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau, the Chengguan operate in every community in China and have a reputation for the brutal treatment of the people they monitor.

Unlike their often revered position as "man's best friend" in the western world, dogs have an uneasy status in China.

As well as being regarded in some regions as tantamount to vermin, dog meat is a delicacy in some areas.

It sees the animals packed into cages before being killed, skinned and cooked.

100 dogs buried alive