Authorities in Hanoi say the the practice of eating cats and dogs is hurting the city's reputation

Officials in Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi are urging residents to ease off on eating dogs and cats in a move to protect the city’s reputation.

The Hanoi People’s Committee said the practice was tarnishing the city’s images as a “civilized and modern capital.”

The city office said putting an end to the practice could put a halt to the spread of diseases including rabies and leptospirosis.

It said the improper raising and slaughtering of the animals was contributing to the spread of the diseases.

 “The trading, killing and use of dog and cat meat has brought on a negative reaction from tourists and expatriates living in Hanoi,” the city’s vice mayor Nguyen Van Suu said in a statement.

He said the animals were often killed in a cruel manner – which he hoped could be phased out.

Officials estimate that there are over 490,000 dogs and cats in Hanoi.

Over 49,000 of these have been raised for commercial purposes – with hundreds of food establishments offering dog and cat meat.

Channel News Asia reports that three people have died from rabies in the capital this year – with two other confirmed infections.