China and South Korea earn much deserved condemnation for their dog meat markets and festivals. Thanks to pressure from activists, the exposure of horrifying conditions the animals face, and the education of the public about the risks associated with eating dog meat, these markets are on the decline. This is especially true among young people who find it cruel to eat companion animals. While we dog lovers in the United States call this practice barbaric in other countries, some of us may be surprised to find out that, depending on interpretation of the law, it is still legal to eat dog meat in 43 of the states in the U.S., and yes, it happens.
It Is Still Legal
California, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia are the only states that explicitly outlawed dog meat. It is, however, illegal in all states for slaughterhouses to handle dogs, and it’s illegal for stores to sell the meat. This doesn’t prevent an individual from killing and eating a dog or selling meat to another person, so long as it’s not through a store. The laws among the states that have banned the consumption of dog meat vary, and some states allow citizens to kill and eat dogs so long as the killing is done “humanely”. New York law states that it is illegal “to slaughter or butcher domesticated dog (canis familiaris) or domesticated cat (felis catus or domesticus) to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption.”
California bans even owning the carcass, so someone couldn’t use the excuse that they got dog meat from somewhere else instead of butchering it themselves. The law also protects “any animal traditionally or commonly kept as a pet or companion,” though that definition may be vague, as many people keep other animals–pigs, for example–as pets.
Virginia has made it illegal to unnecessarily kill animals not associated with farming activities. Since dogs are not commonly used as livestock on farms, they can’t be slaughtered for their meat as it would be unnecessary to do so. All of these state laws vary and can create confusion, which is why dogs would benefit from a federal ban on the practice of killing dogs for meat that applies to all states.
Yes, It Does Happen
Consuming dog meat in the U.S. isn’t a common practice. You may wonder why we should bother banning it at all. The problem is that even though it isn’t rampant, killing dogs for their meat does happen in this country, and it would be better to stop the problem before it gets worse.
In 2003, authorities seized 150 Korean Jindo dogs, a breed commonly used in South Korean meat markets, from a man in Pennsylvania who claimed that they were being raised to sell as guard dogs and meat sources. He was licensed to do that, but the animals were taken due to their poor conditions, not because they were going to be eaten. He was charged with animal cruelty, but again, that had nothing to do with the dogs being raised for meat.
In 1994, a man licensed to sell “random source” meat named Ervin Stebane was convicted of “improperly killing animals.” He reportedly took stolen pets from people’s homes, grabbed strays off the street, or took “free to good home” dogs, shot them in the head, and sold the meat. He had over 140 dogs in his barn when he was raided. Since it wasn’t illegal in Wisconsin to sell dog meat, he was convicted of a relatively minor crime and never went to jail. His only punishment was that his license to sell random source meat was revoked.
These stories not only indicate that dogs are sold for meat, but that there is a demand in this country, however small, for dog meat. The practice is mostly kept underground, but making it a federal crime would make it easier to prosecute those who kill dogs for meat when they are discovered.
What Is Being Done About It
Luckily, a bill has been introduced to Congress to “amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption.” The bill known as H. R. 1406, which is also called the “Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2017” would ban the slaughtering of dogs and cats for meat as well as shipping, purchasing, or selling dogs to be killed for meat. Unfortunately, the penalty for violating the act would be relatively small and include “not more than 1 year, or a fine of not more than $2,500, or both.” Still, it is a step in the right direction, and the bill deserves support.
What You Can Do To Help
Call your representatives. Let them know that you support H. R. 1406 and that killing dogs for meat should be illegal in all 50 of the United States. You can find your congressperson in the House of Representatives here, then contact their office to let them know you support this bill. Together we can make a difference and stop this problem before it even has a chance to grow.
Are you surprised to find out that it is still legal in the U.S. to kill dogs for meat? Will you be contacting your representative to let them know how you feel? Let us know in the comments below!