A dog slaughterhouse owner in Sukoharjo, Indonesia, has been sentenced to 12 months in jail and a fine of 150 million Rupiah ($10,000 USD) for buying and killing thousands of dogs for their meat – including many pets stolen from the streets in West Java.
It is not uncommon for pets to be allowed to wander the streets in Indonesia, but this leaves them vulnerable to the dog meat trade. Suseno, the slaughterhouse owner, had the dogs “trafficked from West Java on a grueling 365-mile journey, tied up in sacks and many had their muzzles bound shut”, according to Humane Society International (HSI), which is part of the Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI) coalition.
“Dog Meat Free Indonesia has interviewed many residents who have described their terrifying ordeal with armed traders stealing their pets at night,” a DMFI statement reads. “Despite the obvious law-breaking, thefts are rarely taken seriously by law enforcement, so the thieves often go unpunished.”
However, there are signs of a change in attitude. This marks the country’s third conviction of a dog meat trafficker since the national government’s declaration in 2018 that “dogs are not food”, with the first one taking place in October last year.
It is possible that the recent pandemic brought the health risk posed by this trade under the spotlight. Rabies is endemic across several parts of the country and dogs are often taken off the streets from rabies-positive areas before being trafficked elsewhere – undermining attempts at controlling the deadly disease.
Additionally, HSI argues, opinion polls show that only a small minority of Indonesians (4.5%) ever consume dog meat, and 93% of all Indonesians support a ban.
Karin Franken of Jakarta Animal Aid Network and national DMFI coordinator, said, “The Sukoharjo police are to be congratulated for not giving up, and using the laws available to them to secure this conviction. But our police forces could be greatly helped in cracking down on this cruelty if only the government introduced an explicit national ban on the dog meat trade.
“The brutal trafficking and butchering of companion animals is rife in many parts of Indonesia, including president Jokowi’s home city, making a mockery of the government’s public statements that dogs are not food. Criminals like Suseno need to be brought to justice to protect animal welfare and public health from this crime-fueled, disease-spreading and cruel trade.”
More than 50 terrified dogs were rescued during a police interception at Suseno’s property last year, and were cared for by campaigners from the Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI) coalition.
Bali-based Lola Webber, Humane Society International’s director of campaigns to End Dog Meat, was at the police interception to help rescue the dogs. She recalls, “Seeing the terrified and traumatized faces of those dogs huddled together in the back of the truck is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“They were skin and bone, dehydrated, weak and bewildered. But at the Dog Meat Free Indonesia shelter we’ve been able to heal their fragile bodies and give them the love and care they deserve. Soon, we will fly them to Canada where they will be available for families to adopt them into loving homes.
“It’s very satisfying knowing that the man who caused them so much suffering is going to prison, but many more dogs will continue to suffer until a definitive law is in place.”
Images by Yoma Times Suryadi/AP Images for HSI