Dog Meat Trade in Vietnam Spreads Rabies to Humans (Video)

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

On September 19, 2013, the Bangock Post announced that Southeast Asian government officials from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam joined with the animal-welfare organization, Asia Canine Protection Alliance, to form a coalition pledging an end to the inhumane, commercial trade in dogs for meat.

At that time, it was estimated that the dog-meat industry was responsible for slaughtering an estimated 5 million dogs for human consumption per year. Dogs slaughtered and consumed in Vietnam were supplied by Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

“Dog-meat production has evolved from small-scale household businesses to a multi-million dollar industry of illicit dog traders causing pain and suffering to the dogs involved and posing health risks to humans,” according to the Post. The trade in dogs for meat involves movement of dogs of unknown disease and vaccination status, impeding rabies elimination efforts in the region.

Countries are failing to comply with their own national animal-disease prevention measures, and are not following recommendations for rabies control and elimination by organizations such as the World Organization for Animal Health; and the trade has been linked to outbreaks of cholera and rabies.

Concerned about the spread of rabies, officials said they would enact a moratorium on the commercial transport of dogs from one country to another for the next five years.

In that time, authorities said they would measure the impact of a moratorium on rabies transmission in the region.

Pornpitak Panlar, with the Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health in Thailand said, “We cannot change culture or habit, but we should stop the smuggling of dogs. This meeting was important to urge government agencies to see the problems caused by the dog meat trade and discuss a platform to stop the spread of rabies.”

Nguyen Thu Thuy, deputy director, Department of Animal Health in Vietnam added, “The rabies situation has become more severe – especially this year. One of the main reasons is the illegal cross-border trade of dogs.

Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement, Humane Society International, said, “The trade is not about a desire to maintain culture or custom. The trade is profit-driven and poses a risk to human health.”


“Closing the Vietnamese border to imports of dogs for human consumption as a rabies control measure may have come two years too late for Yen Bai province, high in the ethnic Hmong region of the north,:” writesMerritt Clifton, former editor of Animal People, who now provides in-depth reporting of breaking news on animal issues at ‘Animals 24/7’

Clifton states on June 8, 2014, that “at least 1,900 Yen Bai residents were bitten by suspected rabid dogs during the first five months of 2014.”

He adds that, “Three people who failed to obtain post-exposure vaccination died. Suspected rabid bites were reported at nearly 10 times the rate reported in 2012, when 16 people died.”

In discussing the possible reasons rabies could escalate the Yen Bai outbreak after the government ban, Clifton writes that one answer may be that the formerly large supply of dogs from Thailand has been cut off, dog and meat traffickers are sourcing more dogs from high-risk areas, where little canine vaccination has been done.”

In a February 13, 2014 article in the Smithsonian, ‘Vietnam’s Black Market Is Selling Dogs With Rabies To Meet Demand for Dog Meat,’ Rachel Nuwer writes that “The Vietnamese government, is pledging to start better regulating the predominately illegal industry.”

In the fall, the Guardian published a lengthy look into the dog meat industry and how it grew in Vietnam. The article states that prices for dogs to be used for meat are skyrocketing and causing imports to increase.

“There are legal ways to bring dogs into the country, and importing them without proof of rabies vaccinations, export licenses and proof of origin has been illegal in Vietnam since 2009. But the government has more or less turned a blind eye to smuggling, the Humane Society says.

The dog meat industry, which almost always transports and delivers those animals live to restaurants, is presumed to play a role in this, as rabid dogs have turned up in that trade before.

Animal rights groups are waiting to see if those pledges actually make a dent in smuggling, however. As the Guardian points out, corrupt officials play a major role in the illegal dog trade.

Nuwer writes, “While rabies might be the impetus behind the government's actions, groups like the Humane Society International and Animals Asia hope the decision will also lessen dogs' suffering.

The Guardian describes, "Some diners believe the more an animal suffers before it dies, the tastier its meat, which may explain the brutal way dogs are killed in Vietnam – usually by being bludgeoned to death with a heavy metal pipe (this can take 10 to 12 blows), having their throats slit, being stabbed in the chest with a large knife, or being burned alive."

Whatever the government’s justification for a crackdown on smuggling, Rachel Nuwer says, if it means that fewer dogs end up with that fate, it can be called a victory.

Several petitions (links) addressing this issue to government and health officials in Vietnam appear at

A recent ABC documentary screened by CNN shows the Dog Meat Trade to Vietnam which thrives in Northern Thailand:

Sources: Bangkok Post, Animals 24-7, Say No to Dog Meat, Smithsonian Mag