A Shiba Inu was snatched away on the streets of a southern Chinese village. Two days later, the owner found the animal in the worst possible place: an illegal dog meat stall.
Despite growing resentment in urban China toward the consumption of dogs, the illegal sale of dogs, including pets stolen from their homes, continues in some parts of China.
In the latest incident, a woman’s painful search for her stolen Shiba Inu has sparked outrage on social media and calls for a tougher crackdown on the trade.
The woman, Antonia Wang, told VICE World News that her dog was stolen by a motorcyclist at about 6 a.m. on July 26, when her father unleashed the dog briefly to let it relieve itself. Wang, 24, got the male dog four years ago when it was a puppy, and named it Chuqi, after her own birthday. (The word refers to the seventh day in a lunar month.)
Wang’s father drove after the man, but the dashing motorcycle soon disappeared into the alleyways. She said location data sent from a tracker worn by the dog showed the device was discarded in a river.
Wang reported the case to the police. With the help of surveillance footage and tips from local residents, she followed the route of the motorcycle and discovered a dog meat stall at a village about 30 kilometers from her home in the southern province of Guangdong.
The next morning, Wang and her friend found several dogs being sold at the stall. Someone had doused them with boiling water and cut them into pieces, she said. Without the fur, these dogs were hardly recognizable, but she found Chuqi’s chip in the remains—it was indeed her Shiba dog.
The seller, an older woman, claimed she had paid about 230 Chinese yuan ($36) to get the dog from suppliers, Wang said.
“I completely lost myself,” Wang wrote in a post on the microblogging site Weibo. “My hands were shaking. Anger, frustration, and helplessness filled up my brain… I only began crying out loud after I returned to my car and closed the door.”
The dog meat seller denied knowing the sources of the dogs, and police were still looking for the thieves, Wang said. Officers disinfected Chuqi’s remains and helped bury them under a tree near her home.
An officer at the Sanzao police station in Guangdong, where Wang reported the case, said they could not provide details to the press.
Dog meat consumption exists in a legal grey area in most Chinese cities—it has not been explicitly banned, but authorities also do not approve of slaughtering and selling dogs as they do for other livestock animals.
With rising pet ownership among the Chinese middle class, more people have called for a nationwide ban on dog meat consumption that animal rights activists say is leading to theft and abuse of pet dogs.
Last month, police in the central city of Wuhan detained a father and a son for killing more than 100 dogs with poisonous darts in less than two months and selling them as dog meat. Earlier this year, police in the southwestern city of Chongqing also detained seven men for hunting pet dogs with darts.
Wang’s post on Weibo was shared more than 25,000 times in five days and sparked a wave of shock and anger. In their comments, many people offered condolences to Wang, and some said they could not bear reading the entire post.
Wang wrote that her experience was a warning to other dog owners, so they could protect their dogs against the meat traders. She is offering 3,000 Chinese yuan ($460) in reward for tips about who took her pet.
She said residents often complained about losing their dogs to what they believe to be organized dog thieves, but the cases are treated only as minor property thefts.
“These beasts not only stole a dog, but also the owner’s time, emotional investment, energy, companion and family love,” she wrote. “These cannot be measured with money.”