First article from a column written by Wayne Capriotti on ‘owning a pet in Vietnam’ published in the Oi Vietnam magazine
New normal in pet ownership in Vietnam: the need to become obsessively vigilant of your dog
Article was written as a reminder about one unfortunate reality of dog ownership in Vietnam, that does not seem to be going away anytime soon, dog-napping. As long as the lucrative dog meat trade persists and practiced In Vietnam your dogs will always be in danger. No matter what part of Vietnam you live, they are watching… we present prevention and a few solutions …. please feel free to add more….
Every week there are a few reports of stolen dogs in Saigon, but this is only a fraction of the actual thefts. The speed, frequency and the brazen act of theft in public is quite riveting. Sometimes the outcome is glorious; you get your dog back, a little traumatized, but safe in your arms. Other times, the outcome is dire and completely heart-wrenching.
Whether you are a first time Vietnamese pet owner, or a newly arrived or long-stay Expat pet owner, caution and vigilance is required daily to safeguard your dog, or cat, from being stolen. Never assume anything, or think daily life with pets will be the same from past experiences, there is a new ‘normal’ in Vietnam regarding pet ownership.
Lucrative ransom rewards for dog thieves
There are lucrative ransom rewards to be earned for dog thieves and their accomplices rather than supplying dogs for consumption. Stolen dog breeds of some degree of pedigree are traded and moved like commodities, upping the value of ransom. Police are not very compassionate, by law, dog theft is under 2,000,000 VND, not a felony in Vietnam. Dog thieves know they will never be prosecuted. A warning, these people are not nice, they work for gangs and most are junkies, armed with knifes, or worst. Do not confront them directly, approach with extreme caution.
Becoming constantly vigilant of your dog
We do not want you to feel paranoid, maybe you should. Dog-nappings are organized and planned. They are probably watching and stalking your dog now. They are waiting for the right scenario where you lose control of your dog for a spilt second, possibly distracted by a combination of noise, blinding heat and temporary chaos that is part of daily life in Saigon. Unaware that your dog has bolted from the house and out the front gate, off-leash, eventually running into a blind spot…
What to do if your dog goes missing
It has happened. No time for denial. Get proactive ASAP. First, go online to the Facebook groups Dog Owners of Saigon and the new Stolen Pet Support HCMC. Become a member, post a message with current photos of your dog, members will be alerted and will offer advice immediately. There are some that will begin their own search in areas that they are known for dog thefts. You are not alone, there are others that share your grief. Second, create a poster with a contact number, post them around your neighbourhood, chances are your dog has been taken out of your neighbourhood, but the dog thieves will return looking for a contact number.
There is a direct link between dog thieves and the pet shop area on Lê Hong Phong Street, District 10 in Saigon. The 300 block area is the first place to look for your dog. And do not go alone. If you are emotionally distraught, suppress your hurt or appoint someone to speak for you. If you do not speak Vietnamese bring along a translator, and bring ransom money, you might be able to secure a deal in the first meeting, however these pet shop proprietors are sadistic and will play your grief and make you wait, so, try to be calm and work with them. The rate of recovery is high if your dog is spotted in one of these shops: just don’t give up.
Security prevention – peace of mind (written for the city of Saigon, but applicable to any part of urban region of Vietnam)
- Always beware of where your dog is before opening the front gate / door of your home. A few seconds securing your dog is peace of mind. NEVER allow roaming around your neighbourhood or sleeping outside unsupervised, day or night.
- Always walk your dog on a leash on way to a local park or public space. Arrange to meet-up with other dog owners to increases the number of ‘eyes’ if you go to a public space and let your dog run freely. Suggestion: a gated, monitored dog park has opened at 582 Huynh Tan Phat Street, District 7.
- Always walk your dog into the flow of traffic so you can see who is coming; looking backwards is healthy paranoia.
- Become alert when you take your dog or cat to a Pet or Grooming Shop or Vet Clinic, thieves are lurking. If possible arrange pet care professionals to come your home.
- Microchips. Consult a Veterinarian about tagging your dog with a microchip. A microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit placed under the skin of a dog. Some have GPS tracking and there are supportive smart phones apps. However, they are not available in Vietnam, plus their is national registry of microchip or standards for this technology.
- Maybe just turn your four-legged buddy into an ‘indoor dog’ something akin to an ‘indoor cat’ (Author’s note: my own cats are prisoners of my house because of the constant threat of being stolen)
- Stagger the hours of your daily walking of your dog, if you can, prevent creating a routine and to the same location, someone will take notice soon.
- Adding a simple identifying dog tag with your Name and TEL might be able to retrieve our dog if stolen, chances are they (dog-nappers) might have not ripped it off before they have ‘fenced’ your dog to a local trader who will conduct ransom negotiations.