On April 19, a small truck left for the town of Yulin, China. Its cargo: cages upon cages of dogs. The dogs, many of them dehydrated, sick, and injured, were stacked on top of one another, making what was to be the final ride of their lives. The truck was on its way to a food processing plant.
A Good Samaritan who had seen the truck traveling on route to the Guangxi Zhuang region posted an update on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, urging animal lovers to help stop the truck before it could reach its destination.
Within a half an hour of the message, hundreds of people gathered at a toll station along the Fumin-Kunming Highway, stopping the truck in its path. Around 11 p.m., the volunteers contacted the local police, who arrived at the scene to investigate.
In all, the truck was carrying 156 small cages with 505 dogs of all breeds and sizes squeezed inside.
Though the investigation continued through the night, the loyal volunteers remained with the dogs, administering what food, water, and medical care they could manage through the bars of the cages. Some of the very ill dogs died during the night. In the morning, the police gave the okay, and the dogs were removed from the truck.
The police questioned the truck driver, who had no legal documents on his person that would permit such a transport, but a call into the AQ office in Xichang, Sichaun Province revealed that the driver did indeed have permission granting him passage to the food processing plant. The police gave the order to reload the truck.
To the horror of the volunteers, some of the caged dogs, including a Samoyed and a Siberian Husky, were still wearing their collars and leashes, an indicator that the dogs were probably kidnapped. Some dogs even had clothing on, clothing that their owners must have dressed them in before they were stolen.
A shelter organizer doubted the legality of the driver’s certifications. “More than 100 dogs are family pets, like a Golden Retriever,” he said. “They are obviously stolen.”
Refusing to allow the dogs to return to the dognapper, the volunteers blocked the truck’s path from the scene. Finally on the evening of April 20, an anonymous donor paid a sum of nearly $10,000 (U.S.) to purchase and rescue the dogs from the truck driver.
A temporary shelter has been erected to house the nearly 500 dogs rescued. Volunteers have been pouring in from across the country, offering their care and support.
Veterinarian Zhao Yue, who has been providing medical treatment for the dogs, says that the dogs arrived at the temporary shelter in bad shape. “Many of them are suffering from dehydration, malnutrition or infectious diseases, and they are very weak,” says Zhao. Around 20 dogs were so ill that they didn’t make it.
The sheer number of animals has proved to be a tough challenge for even the most seasoned volunteers.
Yu Yihan, a 22-year-old volunteer, has been working at the makeshift shelter for five hours per day since the dogs were rescued. “I came here right after I found out about the dogs online,” Yu says. “But all I can do is minor things, like putting water in their mouths,” explains Yu. Still, Yu is proud of the volunteer efforts: “We stopped the shipment, and I’m proud of myself.”
Song Jinzhang of the China Small Animal Protection Association, is pleased with the rescue efforts, but admits that China has a long way to go in creating laws to protect dogs like these. “These dogs are lucky to have been saved from slaughter,” he says, “but many more have been killed and used as food.”
“We hope the government will hasten the legislation of small animal protection laws,” Song adds.