Stolen and Eaten in Vietnam: A Pet’s Highway to Hell

New report by FOUR PAWS reveals scale of illegal trafficking of dogs and cats for their meat


27 June 2024 – An undercover investigation commissioned by global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has found that Vietnam’s public buses, frequently used by tourists, is also used for the illegal trafficking of dogs and cats for the meat trade.

An estimated five million dogs and one million cats are slaughtered for this trade per year in Vietnam.

FOUR PAWS new report, ‘Highway to Hell’ highlights how the National Highway QL 1A, which leads from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to the capitol of Hanoi in the north, is the main “highway to hell” for the illicit dog and cat meat trade.

Used as a primary transport road for public buses, FOUR PAWS footage revealed that cages packed with live cats were being loaded into the luggage holds of tourism buses, unbeknownst to the tourists on board. Animals were also transported in closed trucks, hidden from view. 

During November and December 2022, FOUR PAWS conducted a covert investigation to expose the illegal trafficking of dogs and cats through the Vietnamese province of Ha Tinh. It concludes that not only is most of the transportation illegal, but that there are also massive shortcomings with regards to the execution of highway checkpoint inspection laws.

“What we have seen in this investigation can hardly be surpassed in terms of cruelty towards companion animals.


“Dogs and cats are crammed into tiny cages and transported hundreds of kilometres on trucks and motorbikes, only to be brutally driven out with iron tongs. They are beaten to death with sticks, electrocuted, drowned, or have their throats cut once they reach their destination. The animals are often sold directly by the roadside to their would-be slaughterers, who supply nearby restaurants. Many animals are transported illegally, in the luggage compartment of public buses and without the knowledge of the passengers."

Rebecca Dharmpaul, Campaigner on the Dog and Cat Meat Trade at FOUR PAWS

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Illegal trade with a huge number of unreported cases

Only animal trucks are required to stop at official checkpoints to have their documents checked. Therefore, traders use other means of transportation such as passenger buses to avoid potential detection by officials, as they have no authority to stop them, unless traffic police have prior knowledge of them transporting animals.

“The FOUR PAWS report documents one case where over 150 cats and dogs were crammed into the luggage hold of a passenger bus, while passengers unknowingly awaited their arrival. Eventually, two thirds of the animals were found dead, most likely suffocated next to the passengers’ belongings. Often the trade is not even hidden, as investigators documented cases where animal trucks were not stopped or subject to any inspections at all at checkpoints, which by Law on Husbandry 2015 and other relevant regulations is mandatory. Even where laws exist, they are rarely enforced,” says Dharmpaul.

The province of Ha Tinh facilitates the central “hub of horror”, as it is a bottleneck for the distribution of stolen pets and snatched strays that causes the suffering of illegally trafficked animals, violates transport laws and jeopardises public health.

FOUR PAWS – which recently undertook its “Road to compassion” roadshow in three major Vietnamese cities to generate awareness – calls yet again for a nationwide ban on the cruel trade of dogs and cats for their meat.

Pet theft and the aspects of public health

The uncontrolled mass transport of unvaccinated animals in stressful and unhygienic conditions also increases the risk of zoonosis, as infected dogs and cats may transmit their diseases during transport to other animals, the traders, and the consumers.

Dharmpaul concludes: “The illegal trafficking of cats and dogs must be tackled by the traffic police and provincial quarantine station authorities, as current transport legislation is not effectively enforced. Transporting animals thousands of kilometres across Vietnam is not only an ordeal for the animals but can also have dramatic consequences for public health. The theft of pets, a common practice of traders, is both a traumatic experience for the animals and their owners. Only a nationwide ban on the trade of dogs and cats for their meat will prevent millions of pets and strays from this cruelty.”

FOUR PAWS Australia recommends that any Australians travelling to Vietnam who suspect they witness the dog and cat meat trade to take the following actions: 

  • Speak to your tourism company about what you have seen and document what happened and the company’s responses.
  • Avoid food items referred to as “thịt chó”, “thịt mèo” or “thit cay” (cat meat). "Chó hấp” (steamed dog meat), “rựa mận” (dog meat with galangal, shrimp sauce, fermented rice), and “chó nướng” (baked dog meat).
  • Use our form to report incidents related to the dog and cat meat trade.
  • Choose travel companies who have pledge not to support the dog and cat meat trade. See the full list here.


Each year, more than six million dogs and cats are brutally slaughtered in Vietnam. A FOUR PAWS survey conducted in early 2021 across Vietnam found that the majority of Vietnamese want their government to take action, with a total of 91% saying the trade should be banned or discouraged. When asked if they would support a ban on the dog and cat meat trade, 88% of respondents said that they would be in favour of such a measure. In addition, respondents were asked if they felt consumption of dog and cat meat was part of Vietnamese culture, with the resounding answer being no, with 95% indicating that this was not part of their culture.

Read the full report below:

 Highway to Hell Report

Highway to Hell Report

The illegal trade of dogs and cats through Ha Tinh province, Vietnam

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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