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July 2, 2013

Betrayal of Trust

All Animals

  • A victim of the dog meat trade. Soi Dog Foundation

  • Dog meat for sale in China. YF Du

  • HSI's Kelly O'Meara with a dog rescued from the trade. Chad Sisneros/The HSUS

by Karen E. Lange

The mixed-breed dog was on his way, with scores of others picked up from the streets, to being slaughtered and eaten. Crammed into an unventilated truck, he was headed from the southern Philippines through Manila to the north, where some Filipinos still consume dog meat. Inside the truck, the temperature rose above 100 degrees. Animals couldn’t pant to cool down because their mouths were tied shut with nylon; it didn’t matter to traders if they suffocated—dead dogs could still be sold as fresh meat.

Those who survived the 10-hour trip faced cruel slaughter: They would likely be hung upside down and beaten to death. But police and animal welfare groups, including Humane Society International, stopped the truck in the capital city, enforcing a 2007 law that imposes jail time and heavy fines on dog transporters to prevent the spread of rabies. Kelly O’Meara, HSI director of companion animals and engagement, watched as the back of the truck was opened. “There were about 200 eyes staring back at us.” Many of the dogs in the truck acted like pets, because in fact they were— they wore collars; they’d been stolen. The mixed-breed dog was particularly friendly. “He was very sweet,” says O’Meara. “Licking my hand, wagging his tail, after he’d just gone through this horrific ordeal.”

Ask Thailand's prime minister to stop the illegal dog meat trade.

Rescuers named the mixed breed “Brown Brown.” After he was adopted from the shelter that took him in, he became a therapy dog. And an inspiration.

During the last year, HSI has expanded its efforts to halt the trade across Asia, where a tradition of occasionally eating dog meat has morphed into a commercial industry with cross-country and crossborder transport of dogs: Tens of thousands smuggled out of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia to Vietnam; 500,000 illegally traded in the Philippines; and millions legally sold in China, where dog meat is promoted as winter food that warms the body.

HSI is working with country-based nonprofits, governments, and, in some cases, police. To fight the Thailand-Vietnam trade, HSI has joined the Asia Canine Protection Alliance, which seizes dogs from collectors, trucks, and slaughterhouses. In August, HSI will host a conference for government agencies in the region. In the Philippines, HSI is training police, educating the public, and helping its partner, The Network for Animals, care and find homes for animals the group rescues in raids. In China, HSI is encouraging governments and citizens to ban the dog meat trade—last year rural Weixian County became the first to do this—and is supporting activists as they intercept trucks loaded with dogs on the highway. Since 2010, six trucks have been stopped and 1,500 dogs rescued. HSI has joined other international groups to provide food, as well as vaccination and sterilization funds.

The last time HSI consultant Peter Li visited his hometown in southern China, he went to the market and found dogs, puppies as well as adults, being sold for meat. He saw blood on the ground where some had been killed for buyers. What struck him most was the expression in the eyes of the caged dogs, who must have watched the slaughter: “They’re telling you, ‘I love you.’ They just want to be touched… How can we do this to them?” Take action, then donate to help.

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