Horrific case, but no cause for cultural finger-pointing
DA NANG, CHAMBERSBURG, TAMPA––Vu Van Chinh, founder of the Da Nang Dogs & Cats Information & Rescue Station in Da Nang, Vietnam, “has admitted that he killed dogs and sold them to local restaurants,” reported Philip Sherwell, Bangkok correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph, on April 18, 2016.
The Da Nang case might understandably horrify readers in nations with much larger, older, and better developed animal rescue infrastructure, but accurate perspective includes that it has much in common with several “no kill” and animal control shelter scandals breaking the same week in the United States, in which dogs, cats, and resources donated to help them were instead allegedly conveyed to other purposes.
Drugs, pig hunting
In Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, for instance, former Better Days Animal League personnel Dennis Bumbaugh, his daughter Rashel Bumbaugh, and Daniel McCormick were on April 18, 2016 scheduled for a July 2016 trial on charges dating to February 2015 of having used at least $18,414 in donated funds for purposes including buying heroin.
In Tampa, Florida, Steve Andrews of NewsChannel 8 on April 14, 2016 broadcast allegations circulating among local animal advocates for years––and previously exposed in 2014––that the Hillsborough County animal shelter lacks safeguards against adopting dogs to convicted animal abusers, including dogfighters.
Whether the Hillsborough County shelter has in fact adopted animals to dogfighters is unknown, due to lack of relevant record-keeping, but this has happened at many other U.S. animal shelters, including the animal control shelters serving several other major cities.
Circumstantial evidence reported by Chicago Pets Examiner blogger Pamela Kramer indicates that the Hillsborough County shelter has recently rehomed pit bulls who were resold by their adopters with equipment for hunting feral pigs, a pursuit which––apart from the cruelty to the pigs––may result in more dog deaths and injuries per year than dogfighting.
Was Da Nang shelter a false front?
Vu Van Chinh of the Da Nang Dogs & Cats Information & Rescue Station acknowledged selling dogs for meat,” Sherwell wrote, “after former volunteers claimed that the shelter was a front for selling animals––up to ten dogs a day––nearly as soon as they were ‘rescued.’
“I could not afford to cover the medical expenses for all the sick animals,” Vu Van Chinh purportedly posted to social media. “I had to give some of them injections to help them die. I sold some valuable ones for people to raise as pets. I had to push some into dog meat restaurants after I waited too long and no one adopted them.”
Sought by police, Vu Van Chinh “has reportedly disappeared,” Sherwell continued, but a Da Nang police officer told the Thanh Nien News web site, “We will continue trying to get in touch with him and deal with this case, as anger has spilled over the wider public.”
The Da Nang Dogs & Cats Information & Rescue Station was “a split off group from We Love Animals Da Nang,” said Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam program director for the Animals Asia Foundation.
“I’ve talked to Nguyen Thao Vi,, who is now country director for Humane Society International in Vietnam, and is former head of the We Love Animals Group based in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) from which the Da Nang group was formed,” Bendixsen continued. “Ms. Nguyen found out the situation and has intervened, leading to the exposure of the splinter group.
“We Love Animals Da Nang has taken over the remaining rescued dogs & cats, and the police have been called in to investigate,” Bendixsen told ANIMALS 24-7 via Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson.
“We work with both the Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang We Love Animals group, but we have not met or worked with the Da Nang Dogs & Cats Information & Rescue Station,” Bendixsen added.
Five million dogs per year
Activists investigating the dog meat trade allege that as many as five million dogs per year are eaten in Vietnam, a nation of about 90 million people. That means that the per capita rate of eating dogs in Vietnam compares closely to the per capita rate of surrendering dogs to shelters in the U.S.
The per capita rate of dog consumption in Vietnam is close to that of South Korea (about 3 million dogs per year at peak, among 50 million people) and China (10 to 15 million dogs per year at peak, among 1.3 billion people.
Historically, however, about 85% of Chinese dog consumption has been in the southernmost provinces, near Vietnam, and most Vietnamese dog consumption has been in the northern provinces, near China.
Influence of the Vietnam War
Dog-eating before the Vietnam War is believed to have been practiced mainly in the mountains along the Laotian border and by rural North Vietnamese of ethnic Cantonese descent.
During the Vietnam War years, dog-eating appears to have been popularized in Hanoi, then the capital city of the former North Vietnam and now the national capital, by Chinese military advisors. Dog-eating then spread south with the arrival of North Vietnamese military personnel after the war, in the 1970s.
Da Nang, though near the De-Militarized Zone that formerly divided North Vietnam from South Vietnam, was part of the South. While U.S. troops and foreign correspondents stationed in Da Nang during the war years occasionally mentioned dog-eating, the city was considered friendly toward street dogs. The former U.S. military air base at Da Nang from approximately 1971 to 1975 hosted the only U.S.-style animal shelter known to have existed in Vietnam at the time, managed by John Seales.
Seales, for whom the John Seales Animal Service Center in Little Rock, Arkansas is named, later headed the Little Rock animal control department for 21 years, followed by a brief stint as interim manager of the Nashville, Tennessee animal control department.
Imports from Thailand
As more dogs were eaten in Vietnam, street dogs became scarce, all but disappearing by the beginning of the 21st century. The Vietnamese dog meat industry came to depend heavily upon imports of street dogs and stolen pet dogs rounded up in Thailand, then trucked or boated into Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia.
In May 2014, however, as a rabies control measure, the governments of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam agreed to implement a five-year moratorium on transborder dog trafficking, brokered in part by the Asia Canine Protection Alliance. The alliance members are the Animals Asia Foundation, Change for Animals Foundation, Humane Society International, and the Soi Dog Foundation, a Thai-based organization which pledged to house dogs intercepted from smugglers.
The moratorium has been effective. As dogs from Thailand are no longer available, Sherwell mentioned, “Thefts of household pets have boomed.”
Using shelters to launder dogs for resale
A corrupt animal shelter could potentially be used to “launder” stolen pets as allegedly “found strays,” eligible for resale.
This would be almost exactly the same racket that for much of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st century was used to convey “stray” dogs and cats collected by U.S. for-profit dogcatchers to bunchers who sold random source dogs and cats to laboratories.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health on October 1, 2014 discontinued funding experiments using dogs obtained from “random sources,” meaning pounds, other animal shelters, and bunchers, commonly but somewhat erroneously called “Class B dealers.” The Animal Welfare Act definition of “Class B dealer” actually means anyone who sells dogs or cats other than a breeder.
The NIH had stopped funding experiments using random source cats in 2012.
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