Thai authorities have rescued more than a thousand dogs, which were found stuffed into tiny cages and being smuggled out of the country to be cooked and eaten in Vietnam, according to officials.
Police intercepted four trucks stacked high with crates packed with the animals in an operation on Thursday evening in Nakhon Phanom province in northeastern Thailand near the border with Laos.
A Nakhon Phanom livestock development official said 1,011 dogs were being held in a government shelter after two separate raids in Nathom and Si Songkhram districts.
She said an additional 119 had died either through suffocation in the cramped cages or when they were thrown from the back of the trucks as the alleged traffickers sped away from arresting officers.
Two Thai men and a Vietnamese man have been charged with trafficking and the illegal transportation of animals, police case officer Captain Prawat Pholsuwan
“The maximum punishment is a one year jail term and a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($670),” he said.
The dogs were transported from nearby Sakon Nakhon province and were destined to be taken across the Mekong river in Laos and into Vietnam, Prawat added.
Traffickers, who round up stray dogs and barter for pets in rural Thai villages, can receive up to $33 per dog in Vietnam
But although they have been saved from dog-trader gangs, no one can guarantee they will be safe and survive in their crowded cages while a shortage of food threatens their lives.
Some of the animals were reported dead or injured. The rest are at Nakhon Phanom Animal Quarantine Station.
They looked exhausted after they were moved from the small cages to be put in the station’s only big cage. But that cage, which has a maximum capacity of 500 dogs, now has to house 1,800. They have inadequate food and water, as the station does not have the budget to feed such a huge crowd of dogs.
Nakhon Phanom Governor Rerngsak Mahawinijchaimontree said his team cooperated with animal-control staff and police to arrest the gangs on Thursday night.
He said they arrested Montree Thanklang, 45, a Nakhon Phanom resident, and Pan Hai, 30, a Vietnamese, while they were in a truck containing 600 dogs passing through the province’s Na Thom district. Four other trucks containing 1,200 dogs were seized while they travelled through Si Songkhram district, where police arrested Noppadon Chaiwangrot, 40, a Sakon Nakhon resident.
Rerngsak said police were told that Noppadon had earlier released 600 other dogs into a forest.
“Police believe all the dogs would have been transferred to a ship waiting in Ban Phaeng district of Nakhon Phanom before going across the Mekong River to be sold in Vietnam, where lots of dogs are ordered to be cooked as famous exotic dishes.”
He said police pressed charges against the suspect under the Animal Epidemic Act 1956 that prohibits relocating animals to zones at risk of epidemics without permission.
Previously, the province’s authorities raided a place that housed dogs before they were traded in Na Wa district in June.
Reportedly dogs price can bring prices of Bt500-Bt1,000. Most dog traders have been reported from Tha Rae district in Sakon Nakhon. They travel to villages to barter goods, especially plastic buckets – each bucket costs only Bt50-Bt100.