The dog meat trade is big business in Vietnam and threatens the lives of millions of dogs every year, many of them pets. Every day, pets are violently snatched off the streets, from yards, and even while out on a walk with their owners. These unlucky dogs make a brutal journey to slaughterhouses, markets, and restaurants, where a gruesome death awaits them. But times are changing, and the brutality and illegality of pet theft is no longer being tolerated by Vietnamese authorities.
In a landmark case, police in Thanh Hoa Province received a tip off regarding a gang of dog thieves believed to have stolen thousands of dogs since the beginning of the year. On September 15, 2019 the police successfully carried out the largest ever bust of a dog theft ring in Vietnam, resulting in the seizure of 51 dogs. According to the police, the gang carried stun guns and other sharp weapons, and rode motorbikes through residential areas late at night shooting dogs roaming outside. Police arrested a total of 16 suspected gang members and questioned more than 40 suspects. The gang not only brutalized neighborhood dogs, but also caused outrage among local people, particularly pet owners.
Following the interception, Police struggled to properly care for the confiscated dogs given their limited capacity for animal care, so the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA), of which FOUR PAWS is a member, stepped in to offer assistance. There were 13 dogs in need of immediate medical care due to severe wounds sustained during capture. Dogs with painful open wounds were anaesthetised, treated, provided pain medication and antibiotics, and housed in a temporary shelter for ongoing treatment.
The Asia Canine Protection Alliance is an international alliance of four animal protection organizations committed to ending the illegal trade of dogs in Vietnam: FOUR PAWS, Animals Asia, Humane Society International, and Change for Animals Foundation. ACPA is working to build collaborative relationships with the governments throughout Southeast Asia where the dog meat trade is prevalent, and has already secured a moratorium on the trade in dogs between Thailand and Vietnam.
Following the confiscation, the police publicised the bust throughout the province using local media so that stolen dogs could be reunited with their families.
Over the course of 2 weeks, all 51 dogs were successful reunited with their owners, who were devastated by their pets’ disappearance.
This bust pets a major precedent as dog theft is rarely treated as a criminal offense in Vietnam unless the canines are valued at more than VND2 million ($86).
“These arrests will hopefully go a long way in deterring future dog theft in Thanh Hoa Province, and potentially throughout all of Vietnam. While the dog meat trade is often defended as ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’, the reality is that there are significant health and societal impacts associated with the trade and these are becoming of ever-growing concern within Vietnam and internationally.”
Dr. Katherine Polak, Head of Stray Animal Care Southeast Asia for FOUR PAWS
Earlier in the week, the Food Safety Management Board of Ho Chi Minh City urged locals to stop eating dog meat in an effort to improve Vietnam’s national image with tourists. They also warned the local community of the health risks posed by consuming the unregulated meat. This followed a similar call by the Hanoi People’s Committee last year.
In addition to membership in ACPA, FOUR PAWS also runs a 'Cats Matter Too program' in Central Vietnam with local charities PAWS for Compassion and Vietnam Cat Welfare to improve veterinary training, animal welfare education, and provide free spay/neuter services.
- The Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA) consists of four organizations: Animals Asia, Change for Animals Foundation, Humane Society International and FOUR PAWS. The Alliance was established to support the fight against illegal dog trafficking and eradicate rabies by 2020. Currently, ACPA works with the Vietnam Department of Animal Health on initiatives related to the prevention of rabies, improving animal quarantine capacity, and supporting networks of dog and cat rescue centres throughout Vietnam.
- ACPA estimates that five million dogs are killed for food in Vietnam every year, second only to China in terms of number of dogs consumed.
- An increasing proportion of dogs and cats used to supply the demand for dog meat are stolen pets, and this is quickly becoming a societal issue in Vietnam where the growing pet-owning and loving population is becoming frustrated with continued pet theft.
- Dog theft is rarely treated as a criminal offense in Vietnam unless the canines are valued at more than VND2 million ($86).
- The large-scale movement of dogs of unknown health and vaccination status is in contravention to rabies control recommendations by leading animal and human health professionals.