Chinese supporters save over 2,000 stolen dogs, but government action remains critical

Stealing dogs for the dog meat trade has become an organized crime.On March 2nd, a truck loaded with 900 dogs destined for slaughter was stopped by animal welfare supporters in Chong Qing city, China.

These supporters had reported the truck to the police and urged them to take action. But when stopped, the truck’s drivers - dog dealers - quickly produced a group health inspection certificate which indicated the transport was legal. This placated the local police, but not the animal welfare advocates.

The rescuers insisted on inspecting each dog inside the truck.

Inside they found dogs crammed tightly into battery cages. Dogs had no space and were forced into contorted positions, standing on top of each other with no access to food, water, or even air to breathe.

Dogs in these conditions can die from suffocation, dehydration, heat stroke, or injuries, let alone a whole host of diseases.

The rescuers also later discovered that the health inspection certificate was, in fact, illegal. 

Upon receiving the news, the International Fund for Animal Welfare office in China reacted immediately and updated regional supporters about progress on the front-line. This was yet another opportunity to reveal the cruelty and ruthlessness of the dog meat trade.

On March 5th, however, another truck with 1,300 dogs was stopped by local animal supporters in Guizhou province. It was soon discovered that their certificates were fraudulent as well. These consecutive occurrences of illegal dog transport confirmed our suspicion, that stealing dogs for the dog meat trade has become an organized crime.

Although the dog meat trade itself is legal, the manner in which the industry functions is often illegal. According to Chinese law, each animal being transported for slaughter must have its own health certificate.

These health certificates are meant to ensure the safety of meat for human consumption and are supposed to be written for lawfully owned, healthy animals. Thus, dogs that are stolen should not possess a valid health certificate. Health certificates, however, as with other official documents, may be forged and dog dealers often purchase or manufacture counterfeit versions.

Certain dogs used in the dog meat trade are legally obtained, but many are stolen. Simply searching Google for “steal dog” in Chinese reveals that there are 135,000 published reports.

Dog thieves use varying tools such as tranquilized food, tranquilizer darts, and cage traps to catch unsuspecting pets. Owners may even be shot with tranquilizer darts themselves in an effort to protect their dogs.

Once trapped, dogs often are packed into battery cages, where they stand or lie on top of each other, without food, water, space, or comfort, often for days. These cages may be stacked on top of each other into trucks for transport. If sales are slow, dogs may often remain caged for days or even weeks.

If lucky, these illegally obtained animals are intercepted and rescued by supporters, such as those in Chong Qing city and Guizhou province. But not all dogs are so lucky, and following these rescues IFAW-China immediately made an announcement to update our supporters within China and challenge the government to stop these crimes.

Many citizens echoed us and asked for more stringent law enforcement to prevent such cruelty.

Currently, a total of approximately 2,200 dogs from these two rescue operations have been handed over to rescuers by the police. The rescued dogs have been distributed to four different shelters - two in Chengdu city, one in Kunming, and one in Nanjing. Although these shelters are already over-burdened, some have created temporary housing for these animals.

Caring for these dogs will be complicated, expensive, and time consuming.

At the moment, they are in dire need of vaccination. IFAW will be coordinating vaccine support at all four shelters, as well as offering expertise on care and vaccination protocols.

A generous company, Zoetis, has already come forward with the offer to donate approximately 2,200 vaccines for all dogs rescued from Chong Qing and Guiyang.

IFAW has been a strong voice for dogs in China, raising concerns over certification fraud as well as the lack of regulations and enforcement that has allowed this type of cruelty to repeatedly happen.

Unfortunately, saving animals just prior to slaughter only prevents a symptom of the crime and alone won’t stop this cruel trade.

Rescue events such as these illuminate the horrors and have gained international attention, but in order to stop the slaughter it’s critical that the government take action to fight these crimes, and the demand for dog meat comes to an end.


For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare efforts to reduce wildlife trade in China, click here.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
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Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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