Dognappers spark deadly violence

2011-10-03 13:39

Hanoi - It was already too late when Nguyen Van Cuong heard a neighbour shout "Thief! Thief!" Two men on a motorbike had snatched up his beloved pet dog "Black" and were whizzing away.

Cuong and the neighbour sprinted in vain as the professional dog thieves hurled bricks, one of them slamming into the head of a bystander and killing him.

Similar fights have erupted across Vietnam between dognappers who sell man's best friend to restaurants and fed-up villagers who have increasingly turned to vigilante justice to pursue culprits because there is little police can do.

Mobs have chased down thieves and clubbed them to death - even setting one on fire. But the bandits use everything from bricks to arrows to fend off the villagers and ensure their payday.

"Dog thieves are getting more aggressive - they steal villagers' dogs in broad daylight," said Tran The Thieu, police chief of Hung Dong village in central Nghe An province. "People are very angry to see their dogs stolen and dog thieves are rarely arrested."


Dog meat is a delicacy in Vietnam that's often on the menu at parties, especially in the north. Restaurants specialising in barbecue dog are especially popular at the end of each lunar month when men dine on canine in hopes of purging bad luck.

Dog restaurants in the capital, Hanoi, have boomed as Vietnam has become one of Asia's fastest-developing economies. But as inflation soars, some Vietnamese have looked for creative ways to earn money.

Because dogs typically roam free, they can be easy targets. Live dogs in Hanoi fetch about $6 a kilogramme - a bit more than for live chickens. A 20kg pooch can sell for more than $100 - roughly the monthly salary of an average Vietnamese worker.

It's a good wage for thieves who cruise neighbourhoods on motorbikes, snaring pets quicker than a US car thief can hotwire a Cadillac Escalade. Sometimes, they incapacitate the dogs first by shooting them with darts or arrows pulsating with electric current.

Many Vietnamese are of two minds about dogs. They may rely on the animals to protect their homes and often give them names, but don't consider them to be pseudo-family members as in the West. But that doesn't mean they don't care about their pets.

In Nghe An province, police chief Thieu says dog-related violence is escalating.

Last June, a dognapper was chased and clubbed to death by a mob who then torched his body, leaving the charred remains as a warning on the roadside. Seven villagers were hurt in other incidents there when they pursued thieves who retaliated with knives, bottles and slings.


Most residents don't even bother calling police.

"Residents say the police just fine these thieves and let them go," Senior Lieutenant Colonel Ho Ba Vo, vice chief investigator in Nghe An, told the newspaper Thanh Nien (Young People).

"It's true. A thief only faces criminal charges when the property involved is worth at least 2 million dong [$97]. A dog is much cheaper than that and the thief is only fined for the attempted theft."

There are no charges specific to dognapping, and the typical fine for petty theft ranges from 1 million to 2 million dong ($50 to $100).

In the southern province of Soc Trang, two men turned themselves into police on September 26, a day after fatally shooting a dog owner through the heart with an arrow as he was chasing them.

The lucrative illegal dog trade also crosses borders.

In September in northern Thailand, police arrested two men trying to smuggle 120 dogs into Vietnam stuffed into bags. In August, 1 800 ailing dogs crammed into cages on a truck also were confiscated in Thailand on their way to Vietnam. Half of them later died, local media reported.

Humane treatment

Scruffy medium-sized dogs are commonly seen jammed into wire cages on backs of motorbikes in Vietnam. They are slaughtered, skinned and roasted, and can be seen dangling from wires outside restaurants, tails straight and teeth bared.

Dog dishes range from barbecues to soups served with pungent shrimp paste. The meat has gamey taste and a venison-like texture.

The tradition, also popular in parts of China, South Korea and the Philippines, faces resistance from animal advocates.

One former US Embassy worker in Hanoi was so revolted by Vietnam's dog restaurants that he started the California-based non-profit Kairos Coalition to promote humane treatment of pets. He said more Vietnamese are developing a Western-style love of pets, which may explain why the dog wars have become so heated.

"You are really witnessing the convergence of two trends," said founder Robert Lucius, noting that his group has partnered with Vietnamese animal rights groups and veterinary students.

"The old way of the dog meat trade, where animals didn't count for much, is coming up against the new trend of keeping true companion animals that are loved, nurtured and valued for their own sake."

Meanwhile, the Hanoian who recently lost the 15-year-old dog he had raised from a pup, said police told him they apprehended the two men who allegedly threw the brick that killed the 54-year-old bystander.


Cuong said police informed him his animal, identified because of some fur missing on its tail, was sold for 900 000 dong ($45).

"It's very difficult to raise a good and intelligent dog," said Cuong, 54, who estimates he has lost about 10 animals over the years to professional dog thieves. "If I had caught the culprit, I would've beaten him up!"

He epitomises some of Vietnam's ambivalence toward dogs. Asked if he would ever eat his own dogs, Cuong, who has deep-set eyes and a wispy goatee, shook his head fiercely.

"If I want dog meat, I go to a restaurant," he said.

  • siren703 - 2011-10-03 13:54

    I wont eat my own dog, just go to a restaurant and eat someone elses!

  • AMS-Dammer - 2011-10-03 13:54

    Anyone for a VFD BURGER??????(Vietnamese Fried Dog) With Cheese.... and SUPA SIZE ME!!!!!!!!!!!! 1st time I went to the East, I alsmost crapped in my pants......could not get that picture of the tied up HEAP OF DOGS out of my mind!

      Ms.D - 2011-10-03 14:12

      Hahaha that's a brilliant order..!! Its just disgusting... It's like saying when you don't have meat in the freezer its ok to cut your dog up and fry it... These people are disgusting

  • Currie_Mafia - 2011-10-03 14:10

    Muttdonalds ?!!! WTF !

  • Ula Gillion - 2011-10-03 14:20

    They eat their pets and slay our rhinos. Could it get any more sickening?

  • IC1 - 2011-10-03 14:21

    These people are truly sub-humans, they also think their small d!cks will get larger if they use rhino horn, what a pathetic species.

      OnlyaGinger - 2011-10-03 14:54

      I assume you don't eat pigs cows or antelope then either? Pigs are more intelligent than dogs, so think twice before eating another rasher of bacon... I agree with your sentiment- but many meat eaters are quick to criticise the eating of dogs- yet then pop down to KFC or MCD's for some abused and tortured meat -first fix the error in your own ways before criticizing others.

  • Rationalist - 2011-10-03 14:27


  • KD - 2011-10-03 14:33

    Bloody savages, napalm the lot of them.

  • Gavin - 2011-10-03 14:51

    Vietnam = sodom and gamorrah

  • The_Librarian2 - 2011-10-03 14:54

    We need a sick icon here. *barfs*

  • toleranne - 2011-10-03 15:12

    Why does nobody seem to notice the prime economic opportunity going begging [;)] here? If you can have chicken farms & rabbit farms ...

  • Thomas - 2011-10-03 15:26

    The Vietnamese and the Chinese eat any bloody thing that moves. I am sure they have no cockroaches in their homes because mom just cathces them and fries them up for a quick snack.

  • Flasheart - 2011-10-03 17:08

    Never buy a 'hot dog' in Nam.

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