A court in Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh has sent two dog thieves and a man who bought their dogs to jail.
Pham Dinh Quy, 33, the leader of a gang of dog thieves, got 18 months while Le Duc Thien, 28, his accomplice, got nine months.
Five other ring members received suspended sentences of five to 12 months.
In its verdict Wednesday the court said the gang carrying stun guns, knives and other weapons would regularly go on motorbikes around Duc Tho District at midnight and later to snatch dogs.
If anyone tried to stop them, they were willing to use their weapons, it said.
The gang has stolen thousands of dogs since 2017, it said.
It stole more than 10 dogs every night on average and sold them to Doan Van Loc, 64, who was also sentenced to 15 months in jail for “harboring or consuming property acquired through the commission of crime by other persons.”
He was a middleman who sold the dogs to restaurants.
Last June hundreds of police officers launched a predawn raid on the powerful gang, found hundreds of dogs held in tiny cages, and confiscated many sharp weapons.
Dog theft is rarely treated as a criminal offense in Vietnam unless a stolen animals is valued at more than VND2 million ($86).
There has been a public outcry against dog stealing and many lynchings of suspected thieves.
Vietnam consumes an estimated five million dogs a year, second only to China’s 20 million.
Many of the dogs that make it to the frying pan are stolen pets sold to small, unregulated abattoirs and killed in brutal ways.
Recently, the Hanoi People’s Committee has called on residents stop eating cats and dogs since the killing and selling of dogs and cats for human consumption has undermined its image in the eyes of international tourists and expats.