The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2017 would prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats in the United States for human consumption.
Although commercial sales of dog and cat meat are illegal in the United States, 44 states still have no prohibition on the killing of dogs and cats for human consumption. What this means is that even though it is illegal for stores to sell dog or cat meat, an individual can kill and eat a dog or cat or sell the meat directly to another person.
By amending the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the transportation, delivery, possession, and slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act ensures that stolen pets or stray animals aren’t killed for the trade.
Need for Federal Regulations
Although consuming dog and cat meat in the United States is not a common practice, there are horrific examples that attest to the need for this federal legislation. In Hawaii, it is legal to slaughter an animal classified as a pet if the animal is “bred for human consumption” and is killed in a “humane” manner. Besides allowing for a horrific legal market, this has in too many tragic cases also provided cover for the illegal slaughter and sale of meat from dogs who are strays, lost, or stolen. An undercover investigation for EnviroWatch highlighted the brutality of dog meat farms in Hawaii. The investigator ended up rescuing a dog from one dog meat farm where the dog was being sold for $150 dollars, with the additional cost of $35 for him to be slaughtered.[i] The dog is now his cherished pet. Living conditions at the dog meat farm were heinous; makeshift, unkempt, and unclean pens were constructed to house the dogs as they awaited their fate. Many of the dogs victimized by the underground Hawaiian dog meat trade are beloved family pets who have been stolen. In a notorious case in 2007, an eight-month old Labrador mix named Caddy was snatched from a golf course while his owner played golf. Two employees of the golf course were charged with animal cruelty but pleaded guilty to stealing and butchering the puppy with the intention of eating him and only received five years of probation.[ii]
The dog and cat meat trade is not confined to Hawaii. Animals intended for personal consumption or use in dishes prepared in restaurants have been found in horrendous conditions in other states. In Wisconsin, for example, Ervin Stebane, a dealer who had been licensed by the USDA to sell animals for use in laboratories, was also a dog butcher. Stebane stole dogs from residential communities, collected stray dogs, and took dogs who were “free to a good home,” then butchered them and sold the meat. With no federal law banning the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption, Stebane was only convicted of “improperly killing animals.”
The Pennsylvania Health Department closed a Philadelphia restaurant after learning it was serving cat meat. The restaurant had over 50 cats in chains in its basement and an employee was in the process of slaughtering a cat for human consumption when law enforcement officers from the Pennsylvania SPCA arrived.[iii]
Also in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania SPCA shut down a kennel whose owner was hoarding 150 Jindo dogs who, the kennel owner admitted, were being bred for human consumption; however, due to the lack of federal legislation, the kennel was closed solely for unsanitary conditions.[iv]
In addition to subjecting animals to brutal living conditions and cruel slaughter methods, the unlicensed and unregulated dog and cat meat industry poses serious threats to human health. Toxoplasmosis, an easily transferable parasitic infection common in dogs and other warm-blooded animals, attacks the lining of the stomach and causes flu-like systems; for those with compromised immune systems, this can be fatal.[v] Moreover, bacteria such as E. coli and V. cholerae are easily transferred to humans during slaughter, handling, and consumption of meat.[vi] Further, rabies is readily transmittable through the consumption of meat and is a health risk, given the number of stray dogs fueling the underground dog meat trade.
Other countries and territories, such as Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, have banned the dog and cat meat trade, although enforcement problems exist. In the United States, in the absence of federal legislation, five states—California, Georgia, Michigan, New York, and Virginia—either specifically bar the butchering of dogs and cats for human consumption or otherwise prohibit practices (such as the sale of dog or cat meat) in order to prevent the development of a dog and cat meat market within their borders. This legislation would replace this patchwork of state bans; provide a more powerful tool against the brutality and public health dangers of the dog and cat meat trade; and allow the United States to take a firmer stand against this brutal trade.