During a neutering project to the capital city of Phnom Penh, our team received a report of rampant dog meat trading involving multiple restaurants and traffickers. Our team left early in the morning and made the two hour trek to Takeo Province, where we discovered a small non-descript road-side restaurant. At first glance it looked like any other restaurant, but on closer inspection, we quickly learnt of its true identity. On the left side of the property was a restaurant capable of seating around 20 diners. In the middle of the yard next to the restaurant was a large holding cage that could hold up to 15 dogs packed tightly. The restaurant was a place frequented by dog traders and thieves where they would sell their daily catch of stolen pet dogs. It also served as a main supplier of dog meat for other restaurants in the area.
Soon after arrival at the restaurant, the owner went out back and proceeded to kill one of the smaller dogs in the cage based on a customer’s order. She was cowering as she was grabbed and dragged out of the cage. In front of the other dogs, she was hit on the nose/muzzle with a wooden stick, which disorientated her. The butcher then proceeded to stab her through the throat with a large knife. Sadly, this did not kill her as she was still thrashing. She was then plunged into a pot of boiling water, used to remove her fur. The butcher started grabbing handfuls of her fur and ripping them from her body. During this process she eventually died.
After witnessing this process, we knew we had to try to save the dogs. After some discussion, the restaurant owner would only permit us to take a small young female dog who was cowering in the corner of the cage peering up at us with her big, brown eyes. He then proceeded to tell her story:
"This dog, who we later named Lucky, had been loved deeply by her owner before being brought to the restaurant. The owner had taken great care of Lucky - however she had a debt that needed to be paid, and her husband took the dog early one morning and sold her to the restaurant for a mere $15 to pay the debt."
Finally when we reached into the cage to get Lucky, she was terrified and shaking because she thought she was next to be killed. She starting urinating uncontrollably. We carried her to the car as quickly as possible before the restaurant owner could change his mind.
During the long journey back to Phnom Penh, Lucky started to realise that she was finally safe. She started to relax, and suddenly transitioned into a different dog – jumping, wagging her tail, and giving kisses until she finally fell asleep. She was sleeping so deeply that we had to give her a gentle shake to wake her up when we arrived at our partner shelter – Animal Rescue Cambodia.
At the clinic, the medical team examined her. She was covered in fleas, weak, and still dehydrated. We suspected she had intestinal parasites, and she was also suffering from an ear infection. She was bathed, vaccinated, de-wormed, and prescribed medications.
Lucky really is one lucky dog, as she was quickly adopted by a loving family in Phnom Penh and will now be able to live the life she deserves instead of dying a horrible, slow and painful death!