Vietnamese Police Bust Large Dog Theft Ring


After a tip off to local authorities in Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa province, police successfully carried out the country’s largest ever bust of a dog theft ring, resulting in the seizure of 51 dogs. However, police struggled to care for the confiscated dogs, so the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA) stepped in to offer assistance.

A restaurant in Vietnam advertises dog meat. Image credit eltpics, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Authorities arrested a total of 16 suspected gang members and questioned more than 40 suspects ​linked to the dog theft ring, which was raided as part of an investigation into the thousands of dogs reported stolen in Thanh Hoa Province since the beginning of 2019. ​

A local policeman said, “This ring has operated for a long time, stealing many dogs and causing outrage among local people.” ​

Th​e police publicised the bust throughout the province so that stolen dogs could be reunited with their families. So far 34 dogs have been reunited.

There were 17 dogs in need of care and shelter, of which one was isolated in intensive care, three were relatively healthy, and 13 were in need of veterinary treatment. The dog thieves stole the dogs using motorbikes, stun guns and shackles, often causing severe wounds to the dogs’ necks, leading to serious pain and infections.  ​

A woman in Vietnam holds her dog. A growing number of people in Vietnam have dogs as pets. Image credit Change For Animals Foundation.

ACPA estimates that five million dogs are killed for food in Vietnam every year. An increasing proportion of dogs and cats used to supply the demand for dog meat are stolen pets. This is quickly becoming an issue in Vietnam, where the growing pet-owning and loving population is becoming frustrated with continued pet theft.

Representatives of ACPA were present at the scene of the confiscation and offered support for the injured dogs, ensuring that they received timely veterinary care. ACPA committed to covering the costs associated with the animals’ veterinary treatment, medicine, and neutering. In just two days, 13 wounded dogs were treated by veterinary experts. Dogs with painful open wounds were anesthetised during their procedures, given pain medication, and placed in separate kennels for treatment.​

Tuan Bendixsen, of ACPA said: “These arrests will hopefully make a big dent in the illegal dog meat trade in Thanh Hoa Province, which has seen thousands of dogs stolen from their families just this year. Under Vietnamese law only thefts of property with a cash value of above $86 US dollars are treated as a criminal offence. As a result, individual dog thieves may only incur a small fine. The provincial police hope that this case will set a precedent, helping district police forces to take a stronger stance against dog theft.

“We’re working hard to encourage people to value these animals as sentient beings and companions who feel pain and suffer in the poorly regulated meat trade. We’re up against the perception that dog meat is a delicacy and we will continue to highlight the horrible treatment dogs receive before they arrive on someone’s plate.” ​

Confined dogs in Vietnam’s dog meat trade. Image credit manhhai, CC BY-SA 2.0.

For dogs who have not been identified as belonging to a family, the Thanh Hoa Province Police have approved for them to be taken to ACPA’s certified dog rescue centers, where they can be nurtured back to health and readied for adoption. ​

Earlier in the same week, 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 and avoid the health risks posed by consuming the unregulated meat. This followed a similar call by the Hanoi People’s Committee last year. 

Featured image: a dog seen in a small basket at a dog meat restaurant in Hoi An, Vietnam. Image credit shankar s., CC BY-SA 2.0.

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