Pet dogs are being snatched in increasing numbers to feed the restaurant trade in dog meat elsewhere in South-East Asia.
Thai police have reported a growing problem with 2,000 dogs seized in the last six months. However, despite more seizures, the Soi Dog Foundation claims that this is barely scratching the surface, saying that 1,000 are exported every day.
Most are strays bound for Vietnam and China where dog is considered a delicacy. But at one shelter for rescued dogs in Buriram, one quarter are stolen pets.
Paisarn Pattanadejkul, the head vet at the shelter, says that hundreds of people come looking for their lost dogs, but only one has been reunited with his owner so far, although he died afterwards from a disease he picked up. The shelter is bursting with dogs but, the vet says, “we are a Buddhist country that believes in reincarnation, so to kill the dogs is a sin.”
Capt Teerakiet Thong-aram patrols the Mekong River to try to prevent the smuggling of both dogs and drugs across the border.
“Dog meat is not popular in Laos. It’s just a passageway. This is the easiest way for smuggling,” he said.
Dogs with dark fur as the most lucrative as their meat is claimed to have a distinct taste. Many pets are stolen before Christmas as demand for dog meat rises before January’s Chinese New Year.
According to the Soi Dog Foundation, dogs are killed by being skinned alive because of the belief that the pain inflicted leads to the tenderizing of the meat.
Pet stealing and smuggling over the border is illegal but not rounding up strays into cages. Animal cruelty is also not illegal in Thailand where the introduction of animal welfare laws has been discussed but delayed for many years.
Photo from toolmantim via flickr