Siem Reap police seized nearly five dozen dogs destined to be slaughtered for meat on Saturday, as part of the city’s ban on selling canines for consumption.
Animal welfare group Four Paws International said in a Facebook post on Monday that the Siem Reap Agriculture Department intercepted a truck carrying 61 dogs for slaughter in different parts of Cambodia, and confiscated all the animals.
Prum Vich, director of Siem Reap province’s animal health and production office, said on Wednesday that there were actually 58 dogs rescued at final count, and that the animals were taken to the state veterinary and research office in Siem Reap city’s Toek Vil commune, where they are quarantined to prevent the potential spread of disease.
“Of course, this is not the first time [we’ve caught dogmeat traders], but because in the past we have not partnered with Four Paws, we have now caught them and made many contracts,” he said, explaining that the provincial rescue team now make dogmeat traders caught in the act sign a legal contract promising not to buy or sell dogs for human consumption.
“We used to release them to the pagoda,” he said.
The rescue team had changed its procedures after the provincial administration banned the slaughter and trade of dogs for consumption last July, following the recommendations of animal welfare group Animal Rescue Cambodia, Vich said.
Martina Mayr, director of Animal Rescue, said the dogs were being vaccinated, with six of them transported for critical treatment at her Phnom Penh-based clinic.
“A lot of the dogs are obviously traumatized,” she said. “At the moment, we are trying to keep them alive, find a better housing situation, and also make sure that the medical care is completed.”
Once the animals’ health is restored, Mayr said the next challenge is to find loving caretakers and adopters, mostly in Siem Reap province.
“We are having certain difficulties because there are a lot of dogs and it was unexpected, so it is difficult planning on short notice and resources,” she said.
Four Paws International praised the rescue and the larger ban on dogmeat trade by the Siem Reap administration, but it called on the central government to crack down on the trade nationwide. The organization has been using the latest rescue as part of a fundraising campaign, according to its Facebook post.
“The trafficking of dog meat is a violation of the laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia and is also associated with unforeseen atrocities and poses a serious risk to human health,” the organization said in a statement. “It is time for the Royal Government of Cambodia to take action against the dog meat trade to close the dog kennel and end the theft, traffic, and killing of dogs.”
The dogmeat trade has also been connected with the spread of rabies, which is transmitted from animal bites and almost always fatal in humans if not treated soon after infection. Rabies cases have stirred disquiet among Cambodian social media users, as the disease takes a severe toll on the health and mental state of infected people before killing its victims.
Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon could not be reached for comment.