First dog thieves jailed after Vietnamese law change

14 June 2017

Public outcry over rampant dog thefts has pushed the government to enact new laws which have finally given jail terms to dog killers.

For years criminals have stolen dogs from loving homes with near immunity in Vietnam to feed the dog meat industry.

But a law change enacted in July 2016, has finally turned the tables against the thieves by allowing prosecutions to be brought against those whose thefts cause social disorder.

And from now on even the theft of a single dog can result in jail time, as the law recognises the emotional value of companion animals.

Dogs on truck to Vietnam 7

Previously, the crime was treated as petty property theft with the dogs themselves considered to have too little financial value to bring a prosecution. As a result most thieves were more scared of vigilante owners than the authorities.

But last month, a court in the southern province of Tay Ninh wielded the new powers for the first time and handed out custodial sentences of three to seven years each to six dog thieves.

The gang 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 with police raiding the restaurant in December 2016 to find 47 dogs, 32 of which had already been slaughtered.

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“This is the first case we’re aware of which has resulted in jail time for dog thieves. It proves Vietnam has finally had enough and the authorities are willing to use the new laws to protect companion animals and the public.

“The industry only survives off the back of stolen companion animals and strays – which is completely illegal and has been fomenting serious social unrest.

“Until now, law enforcement has been unable to deal with dog thieves decisively due to the old law, but this case proves the new law is capable of jailing thieves and will send a strong message to the criminals.”

Up to 5 million canines are believed to be slaughtered in Vietnam every year for meat, but despite the enormity of the industry, no large-scale farms are known in the country.

Observers believe this is because most dogs are beloved family companion animals brutally stolen from homes or strays rounded up off the streets.

Dog thefts – and the lack of legal protection – had resulted in significant social disorder as enraged dog lovers were left to battle dog thieves themselves.

Deaths of both thieves and dog owners had become common with a number of severe cases creating unprecedented legal headaches as entire villages “confess” to the murder of dog thieves.

Read more on social unrest related to Vietnam’s dog meat industry:

Vietnam Dog Lovers Become Vigilantes to Stop Pets From Being Eaten

Eat, Prey, Love: Vietnam’s dogs double as family members and dinner

Dog Thief Down: Pet lovers turned vigilantes in Vietnam (VIDEO)