In February of 2021, a minivan was intercepted in Siem Reap, the second largest city in Cambodia, by the Provincial Department of Agriculture. When they opened the back of the white van, they found six tiny, rusted cages with 61 dogs in total crammed inside. The pups were piled on top of one another inside these cages, with it impossible to tell where one dog started and the other began. Without this interception, all 61 dogs would have been brought to a slaughterhouse in Kampong Cham, in southeastern Cambodia.
The van interception was incredibly successful, and allowed for international charity Four Paws to step in and begin medical treatment. However, local government hasn’t always been willing to assist in the fight against the dog meat trade in Cambodia. In fact, this was the first government-led interception of canines in this country since the new ban on dog meat was put into effect in Siem Reap in July of 2020. “This first-of-its-kind interception hopefully sends a loud and clear message to traffickers across Cambodia that future dog meat trading will no longer be tolerated,” said Dr. Katherine Polak, veterinarian and head of Four Paws Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia.
The charity workers with Four Paws began moving the cages into an enclosed holding area where the pups could roam freely and stretch their legs, while officers arrested the van’s driver. A combination of strays and stolen pets, the young pups had clear health concerns, with many being dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion. “It is unclear how long these dogs were in the van or at a holding area before being loaded onto the vehicle,” explained Dr. Katherine Polak. “All were extremely hungry, most likely not having eating in days.”
Four Paws began working with local charities Paw Patrol Cambodia and Animal Rescue Cambodia to begin administering veterinary care to the sick pups. Despite the new ban, Siem Reap is still a “key hotspot” for Cambodia’s dog meat trade, according to Four Paws. The charity explains that minivans, similar to the one intercepted earlier this year, regularly transport approximately 3,750 live dogs every single month out of Siem Reap to nearby slaughterhouses. Local charities and government will need to continue to work closely with law enforcement to bring this horrendous trade to a halt.
Thankfully, Four Paws’ work didn’t stop with the van interception. A little over a week later, Four Paws and local officials were able to close down the slaughterhouse the van was delivering to — a slaughterhouse that has been open and operating since 1995. On site, they found and rescued 16 more young pups from dreadful conditions. After assessing the new rescues, and offering food and water, the pups were transported to the nearest animal hospital where many were treated for parvovirus.
Many of these pups were injured and ill, as well as traumatized from the brutal way they were contained. With the entire slaughterhouse being essentially one concrete room, the dogs were kept near the drowning pits where pups before them lost their lives. Though the dogs were grateful for their freedom, as well as for the food and medical care, what really brought these dejected pups back to life was the love that the charity workers brought with them.
Four Paws has kept their animal-loving followers updated on every step of the rescue of the 61 pups, and posted an update when the slaughterhouse closed. “We finished up at the slaughterhouse and demolished the cages,” the Facebook post read. “Before the day ended, there was one thing left to do: all of us had avoided going near the two drowning pits. Filled with nasty water, more than one million dogs had died a horrible death since the slaughterhouses opening. We started shoving earth into the pits and worked quietly side by side until the dark holes were gone and all signs of the horrors that had happened here were gone and transformed into distant memories.”
Though the horrific reign of that slaughterhouse has come to an end, there are still many more that need to be shut down. “Through education and cooperation with the responsible authorities and tourism associations, the aim is to urge governments to introduce and enforce legislation banning the dog and cat meat trade to protect both animal and public health,” explained Dr. Karanvir Kukreja, veterinarian and Head of Companion Animal Public Campaigns Southeast Asia at Four Paws.
Four Paws is working across Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia to end the dog meat trade. If you would like to join their efforts, consider signing this petition.
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →