In Vietnam, Neither Dog Thieves Nor Dog Lovers Are Giving In


Tensions between local residents and dog thieves in Vietnam show no signs of easing as local media reported. Last week an angry mob of civilians severely beat two dog thieves and, in an unrelated incident, dog thieves attacked police officers after being caught.

New Cases

The first case involved two dog thieves who were beaten unconscious and had their motorbike set on fire by a crowd of locals in Bien Hoa City, Dong Nai Province on July 28.

According to Thanh Nien, the two men were caught red-handed by citizens of the town while they were shocking a dog with a home-made taser gun in the early morning.

More locals reportedly came and chased after the thieves.

By the time the police arrived, the dog thieves were lying unconscious with multiple injuries, while their motorbike was completely burned.

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The taser gun and the bodies of ten dogs were found nearby.

One of the thieves suffered a fractured skull, along with a broken arm and a broken leg. The other sustained minor injuries.

Additionally, on July 24, two police officers were injured while chasing two suspected dog thieves in Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta.

The officers, suspecting the pair were dog thieves, signalled the men to pull over their motorbike. The men ignored the request and sped up.

One of the suspected criminals shot an officer in the stomach with a home-made taser gun, while the other threw hot chili powder into the face of the accompanying officer.

Local police are still searching for the men.

An Enduring War

Civilians have repeatedly attacked suspected dog thieves over the years despite public outcry.

No matter how brutally dog thieves are injured, thieves have not been deterred and continue to find new ways to steal dogs and evade residents.

Along with tasers and other weapons, many thieves also use dog poison disguised as candy. One such tragic incident happened last year when a 53-year-old man in Dak Nong Province died after mistaking dog poison for a lollipop.

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The man found two "lollipops" while he was sweeping his front yard. After eating one he began to foam at the mouth and convulse violently. He was rushed to hospital but died 15 minutes later despite doctors' efforts.

In November 2014, a two-year-old boy in the same province died for the same reason.

A number of fatalities involving dog thieves and residents have been reported in the last few years.

Dog thieves have turned their weapons on dog owners or civilian pursuers after being caught red-handed in some cases, while angry mobs have fatally attacked dog thieves after catching them in other cases.

The Changing Law

For years dog theft has been treated as petty theft; according to the law, dogs were considered to have too little material value to bring about a criminal prosecution. By Vietnamese law, theft is only considered a criminal offense if the stolen property’s value exceeds VND2 million (US$88).

As a result, most thieves have been more scared of vigilantes than law enforcement.

However, an amended law which took effect in July 2016 has finally turned the table against dog thieves by allowing prosecutions to be brought against those whose thefts cause “insecurity” and “social disorder”.

In May of this year, a court in the southern province of Tay Ninh enacted the new law for the first time and handed out custodial sentences of three to seven years to six dog thieves.

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According to Tuoi Tre, the thieves had been stalking houses at night and shooting dogs with home-made stun guns at the behest of a local dog meat restaurant.

The scale of their crime was eventually their undoing,as police raided the restaurant in December 2016, finding 47 dogs, 32 of which had already been slaughtered.

Dog Meat Industry

Around five million dogs are killed in Vietnam every year, making it the world's second-biggest consumer of dog meat after China, which consumes roughly 20 million every year.

The consumption of dog meat has been condemned by many in Vietnam and around the world, as most of the dogs eaten are stolen pets.

Dog meat eating is an established tradition in Vietnam, especially in the northern region of the country.

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VnExpress has quoted a Vietnamese senior labour official as saying that eating dog and cat meat has negatively affected the reputation of Vietnamese labourers overseas.

“They drink or gamble every time they get together. Some workers went to Malaysia, and people’s dogs and cats started disappearing, and they put any birds they could find into bowls of rice porridge,” she said.

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