Police in Indonesia intercept a notorious dog meat trader, saving 53 terrified dogs awaiting slaughter

01 December 2021

Central Java, Indonesia (25 Nov. 2021) – A man suspected of being a dog meat trader on the Indonesian island of Java has been arrested, and a delivery truck packed with 53 dogs intercepted, as part of the country’s first ever large-scale police raid on an illegal dog meat slaughterhouse. Police in Sukoharjo infiltrated a dog trafficking operation in Java in order to move in on the trader and dog butcher who has allegedly been at the centre of the dog meat trade spanning the island of Java for more than 20 years. He is suspected of coordinating shipments of hundreds of dogs for slaughter every month, and killing on average 30 dogs every day. Campaigners from the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition (of which Animals Asia is a member), which campaigns for a nationwide ban on the dog and cat meat trades, were at the scene to help rescue any dogs found alive.

The sting operation took place in the early hours of the morning on 24th November as the truck loaded with 53 terrified dogs arrived at the slaughterhouse. DMFI campaigners found the dogs tied up in hessian sacks, their mouths tightly bound with string and cable ties. Most of the dogs were emaciated, and less than one year of age, and one dog had sadly died on the gruelling journey.

Lola Webber, from DMFI member group Humane Society International, was one of the first on the scene. She says:

My heart was pounding in my chest as we approached the truck, because I could hear the dogs’ pitiful whimpering and then saw them all tied up in sacks, their soft muzzles squeezed shut with wire. They were extremely traumatised and frightened. Many of them were still wearing collars, and were no doubt many miles from home, likely stolen pets grabbed from the streets… We are immensely grateful to the authorities for taking action. For those of us who have been campaigning for so long to end this cruel trade, it was a huge privilege to be able to rescue these animals.”

This is only the second major dog meat trade bust by the police in Indonesia, marking what DMFI campaigners hope signals a turning point in their campaign to see the brutal and dangerous trade banned nationwide. Despite a national government pledge to crack down on the dog meat trade, it has been isolated regional governments and regencies that have so far taken the initiative to protect Indonesians from the trade. Regencies and cities such as Karanganyar, Salatiga and Sukoharjo have passed explicit bans in their jurisdictions, and DMFI hopes that another arrest and eventual prosecution will send a strong signal to other dog traders that their activities are illegal and will be punished.

Last month a dog trader caught by Kulon Progo District Police was sentenced to 10 months in jail and a fine equivalent to $10,000 US dollars after authorities intercepted his truck illegally transporting 78 dogs from West Java for slaughter and human consumption throughout Central Java.

Mr. Tarjono Sapto Nugroho, head of crime investigation of Sukoharjo Police says:

“We receive many complaints about illegal dog meat traders’ operations. People do not want this trade or slaughter in their communities. Dogs are friends, not food, and the trade is already illegal... So we initiated this interception and confiscation to protect our communities and to support the Central Javan government’s efforts to eradicate the dog meat eating culture and trade.”

The Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition has conducted numerous investigations since 2016 with support from Animals Asia, exposing the brutal reality of the trade in dogs destined for human consumption. Every month, tens of thousands of these dogs are transported across Indonesia, often crossing provincial borders and in so doing, jeopardizing anti-rabies measures because of the dogs’ unknown disease status. 

The 53 dogs rescued from the slaughterhouse received emergency veterinary treatment from the DMFI team before travelling to DMFI’s temporary shelter where they will receive loving care to get them back to health. The chances of being able to reunite them with their families are likely to be slim, but DMFI will make local appeals. The plan is that some of the dogs will be adopted locally among Indonesia’s passionate dog-loving community, while others will be flown to Humane Society International’s temporary shelter in Canada from where the organisation hopes to find them forever homes.

Dave Neale, Animals Asia’s Director of Animal Welfare said:

“It’s great to see the authorities are taking the issue of illegal dog meat trading seriously and these pioneering enforcement actions are sending a strong message that those who steal and slaughter dogs for food need to shut down their operations. We join our Dog Meat Free Indonesia colleagues in applauding the police’s decisive action and are so grateful for our partners on the ground for being there to help care for these dogs and try to find forever homes for them.”

Opinion polls consistently show that the vast majority of Indonesians don’t eat dog, with a mere 4.5% of the population doing so, and 93% of Indonesians in support of a ban nationwide.

Police confirmed at the scene that they anticipate the suspect will be prosecuted later this year for violating the Law of The Republic of Indonesia Number 41 Year 2014, Article 89, regarding Animal Husbandry and Animal Health, with penalties of at least two years and maximum five years imprisonment, and/or a fine at least 150,000,000 Rupiah ($10,500 USD). The police have also pledged to further investigate others involved in illegal operations involving the trade and slaughtering of dogs throughout their jurisdiction.

Dog meat trade facts

There are widely publicised reports directly linking the dog meat trade to rabies transmission in many parts of Asia where the dog meat trade operates, including Indonesia. Scientific reports have documented rabies-positive dogs being sold and slaughtered in markets in Indonesia, as well as in restaurants and slaughterhouses in China and Vietnam.

Across Asia, opposition to the dog and cat meat trades is increasing, with an ever-growing number of countries and territories (Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and two major cities in mainland China) banning the trade in and slaughter, sale and consumption of dogs. In September, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in suggested it could be time to consider a dog meat ban, and in November it was announced that his cabinet will meet to discuss this further.

The Dog Meat Free Indonesia campaign comprises Humane Society International, Animals Asia, FOUR PAWS, Animal Friends Jogja and Jakarta Animal Aid Network. Their campaign has received support from global and Indonesian superstars including a letter to President Joko Widodo in 2018 calling for action to end the country’s dog and cat meat trades signed by Simon Cowell, Sophia Latjuba, Yeslin Wang, Nadia Mulya, Lawrence Enzela, Cameron Diaz, Chelsea Islan, Ellen DeGeneres and Pierce Brosnan.

Read more:

67 dogs rescued from dog meat trade in Central Java