|Volunteers look after dogs rescued by police from a truck in Qijiang country in Chongqing on Tuesday. The dogs were to be slaughtered for food in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province. (Photo/ China Daily)|
Two government veterinarians in Southwest China have been suspended for failing to properly check a truck that was found to be carrying more than 900 dogs to Guangdong province.
Animal rights activists said they believe most of the animals were stolen, and all were headed to slaughter.
Li Kangsheng and Li Daoping of the Wusheng county animal health inspection institution in Sichuan province are being investigated over a quarantine permit they signed for the shipment.
Animal rights activists stopped the truck after spotting it on a Chongqing highway on Saturday.
"According to my experience, a truck overloaded with dogs driving at night is a problem," said Peng Tao, one of the volunteers who led the rescue.
After getting the truck to pull over, he said, he found many poodles, huskies, German shepherds and golden retrievers, all expensive breeds, locked in cages in the back. "Some still even had their collars," he added.
Peng said he called fellow activists to confront the driver and demand to see a certificate, but was refused. He then claims he was attacked by the driver, and called police for help.
Chongqing traffic officers who responded found a discrepancy on the quarantine permit between the number of dogs being shipped and the number indicated on the certificate.
"The certificate said 926 dogs, but in fact there were 907. There was even a sheep among them," Peng said.
"If those who issued the transport permit had checked carefully, they would have found that."
As Peng and other volunteers posted the whole process and a copy of the certificate on their Sina Weibo, netizens started to raise questions about the quarantine process.
An official who answered the phone for the Wusheng animal health inspection institution on Wednesday declined to comment. However, a document circulated by the county's food safety authority on Monday confirmed the two veterinarians had been suspended.
Of the 907 dogs rescued, 20 have since died. The rest are being held for now in a school playground in Chongqing.
"The authorities do not have room for the rest, so we have been charged with taking care of them," Peng said. "It's chaos," as he has no clue where and how to dispose of the dogs.
In a separate case, about 20 animal rights activists also stopped a truck carrying dogs in Xiuwen county, Guizhou province, on Tuesday.
Ning Tao, a volunteer, said there were 1,123 dogs confiscated and the situation was similar to what happened in Chongqing.
Several similar incidents were reported nationwide last year.
Ji Na, a volunteer, said she took part in dog-saving campaigns three times in Tianjin.
"The situation (dog stealing and selling) is terrible, and it happens a lot," she said. "But there are no regulations prohibiting it."
Han Dong, an animal rights campaigner in Henan province, said the demand for dog meat is huge in Guangdong and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where eating dog meat is a tradition.
However, according to his observations, there are no special dog farms, so stealing dogs from households and selling them to slaughterhouses has became the common practice.
"We have tracked the dog dealers and taken videos of how they steal pets," he said. "If the amount of stealing is up to a certain amount, the behavior would be constituted as a crime."
Han also stressed that eating pets can be harmful to human bodies since the pets all received rabies vaccine injections.
Han said in the current legal context, the best way to fight the thefts is to strengthen the quarantine inspections.
"Once there are suspicions, the officers should report them to the police so that the investigation of pet-stealing can be easier," he added.
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