Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Stray dogs being eaten, welfare activists charge

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

On the fifth anniversary of the Animal Protection Law (動物保護法), legislators and animal-rights activists said the law was being ignored, claiming that one third of stray dogs in public shelters are sold to restaurants.

Hsiao Hua (小花), a 9-year-old crippled dog with patchy fur, was displayed by independent Legislator Su Yin-kuei (蘇盈貴) at a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

The dog was disabled after being beaten by a drunk last year. It also lost its left eye in the incident.

But Hsiao Hua is luckier than many abused dogs in Taiwan.

A recent survey by Su and animal-welfare groups suggests that one-third of strays or abandoned dogs in shelters are sold to restaurants and one-tenth to laboratories.

"Even though we have the law, we don't see the government's resolve to protect animals," Su said.

Su said that in the past five years the Council of Agriculture (COA) has meted out punishment in only 12 percent of animal abuse cases.

According to the law, those who abandon or abuse dogs will be fined up to NT$50,000 and those who kill pets will be fined up to NT$10,000.

Shen Jung-chen (沈蓉震), founder of Care for Animals and Protect the Earth Organization (關愛動物保護協會), said the selling of dog meat by restaurants and street vendors could be attributed to a lack of enforcement.

"Our survey suggests that the unit price for dogs varies from NT$300 to NT$3,000," Shen said.

After carrying out a nationwide investigation, Shen found that all jurisdictions in the country have shops selling dog meat.

Huang Jen-yen (黃建源), a veterinarian who rescues stray dogs, said stray animals were regarded as waste and that people see dealing with strays as a garbage collector's job.

"The law says seriously injured dogs should be rescued or subject to mercy killings. But the government seems to prefer the latter," Huang said.

But Andrew Wang (王忠恕), an official from the COA's Animal Industry Department, said the activists' accusations lack evidence.

"We deal with all animal abuse cases reported with evidence," Wang said, adding that measures have been taken to rescue strays and reintroduce them to domestic life.

Wang said 54 restaurants selling dogs before the law was enacted in 1998 have been closed.

"But if there's any evidence showing secret trading of dogs as food, we will tackle the problem immediately," Wang said.

Since the law was enacted in 1998, the COA has spent NT$300 million on building new shelters and renovating existing ones.

Wang said the number of stray dogs has been halved from 660,000 in 1999.

In addition, the number of pet dogs in Taiwan has fallen from 2.11 million in 1999 to 1.79 million in 2001.

But only 30 percent of domestic dogs have been tagged.

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