In mid-December the Taiwan Legislative Yuan passed new rules under Taiwan's Animal Protection Law to ban the selling of dogs and other companion animals as food.
Previously the law only banned the killing of dogs and cats for their skin, meat or other parts. This failed, however, to stop vendors from selling dogs and cats to restaurants, or to keep the restaurants from offering their meat as a delicacy, as the vendors and restaurant would avoid fines by saying that they did not kill the animals themselves.
The fine for violators of the rules against killing dogs and cats will increase from NT$10,000 (about US$1500) to NT$250,000 (about US$7350). The fine for abandoning or abusing dogs will remain at NT$50,000.
Although they do not list dog meat on their menus, restaurants in Linkou, in Taipei county, are infamous for offering it to their customers.
According to myth, dog meat is believed to ward off illness in those who consume it. The meat is especially popular during the winter months when colds and the flu are more prevalent.
Animal rights activists believe as many as one-third of the stray dogs in public shelters end up being sold to restaurants to be served to diners.
Shen Jung-chen, founder of Care for Animals and Protect the Earth Organization, said the selling of dog meat by restaurants and street vendors was due to a lack of law enforcement.
"Our survey suggests that the unit price for dogs varies from NT$300 to NT$3000," Shen said.
According to a survey, shops selling dog meat still exist throughout Taiwan.
Fifty-six members of the legislature took the initiative to introduce the new revisions to put some "bite" into the law which previously only prohibited the butchering and selling of pet meat without giving law enforcement officials the power to punish violators.
The new laws will allow law enforcement agents to file charges directly, and levy fines against any person or restaurant caught violating the rules.
Help-Save-a-Pet Fund, a non-profit animal rights organization in Taiwan, said it was pleased at the tougher penalties to be given to violators of the law, and that they planned to offer rewards to those providing tips about individuals selling dog meat.
Secretary-general Liu Yu-tung said she hoped a future law change would ban the eating of dog meat altogether.
© 2003 Animal News Center, Inc.