Escape from Yulin: Puppies Rescued from Butchers’ Knives

Humane Society International

In China to raise awareness about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival on June 21, HSI China Specialist Dr. Peter Li rescued two puppies from the butchers’ knives. An HSI partner group saved two more.

What were the circumstances of the rescue?

On June 13, I went to two slaughterhouses and one live dog trading market at about 4am with a Shanghai journalist, an activist from Xi’an and a local activist. When we arrived at the trading market, we could see cages of live dogs being brought in on the backs of motorcycles. Most were in bad shape—emaciated, depressed and in pain. Three with serious skin problems looked particularly miserable.

At about 7am, the manager began to shout at us in order to drive us away. Just as we were leaving, another motorcycle raced in. On the back of it was a cage with two lively puppies. I went to the cage. The bigger puppy stood up to try to touch my fingers. He was so energetic, not knowing that he was in the most disgusting place. The other puppy was shy and sat in the corner of the cage. Without any thought, I told the man that I wanted those two dogs. It was too hard to leave them behind for the restaurant owners.

Why did they catch your eye in particular?

They were so cute that they looked like polar bear cubs. Their innocent faces were unbelievably attractive. They were like furballs. I could not imagine that they were brought to the live dog market. How could we slaughter puppies and eat them? Once we held them in our arms, they were so quiet, as if they knew they were in good and loving hands.

What happened after you took them away from the market?

We placed them in a local dog boarding facility run by an animal lover and checked on their condition daily. When I went back to Yulin to pick them up, they seemed to remember me. They were so happy in the cage, jumping, tumbling and trying to lick my hand.

I had them examined by a local vet, who said that they were in perfect health. They were given their first shot and they were ready to say goodbye to Yulin.

Did you have any difficulties in getting them out of the city?

It was definitely not easy. When the boarding facility lady went to the Yulin Animal Control Office for a vaccination certificate, we were told that none would be issued that day because of the dog meat festival. The Office Head did not want any mistakes made that could lead to his dismissal.

I called a contact at the airport and asked if he had a solution. Eventually, he was able to arrange for documents to be issued from Nanning instead.

With the two puppies, I hailed a taxi. Just when I was celebrating the successful “escape,” the car broke down. The driver opened the hood and we saw a smoking engine on the verge of catching fire. “Ai yi,” I was murmuring in my mind. I guess the road to freedom and safety cannot be too smooth! Fortunately, I got another ride to Nanning.

The puppies were loaded onto a China South Airlines flight to Beijing and I managed to get on board the same plane. In Beijing, we stopped for a few hours at a relative’s apartment. The two young girls of this animal-loving family had great fun hugging the two puppies.

A colleague took one to the US on the 27th. I’ll take the other one on July 3.

What next?

I couldn’t resist, nor risk disappointing my daughters! I am adopting one of them and one has been adopted by an HSI board member — a very different fate from the one they had previously faced.

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