In Cambodia, our team ventured to an area from which we had received reports of dog slaughterhouses. These slaughterhouses serve as the main suppliers for the over 100 dog meat restaurants in Phnom Penh, the capital in Cambodia. We located the first slaughterhouse quite quickly, which was situated behind a dental clinic. Unfortunately, we arrived an hour too late: There were no signs of live dogs, only empty rusty cages were scattered about on the property, in which the dogs had just recently been kept. There was a pungent smell of feces and blood that lingered in the air from the day’s recent killings. After walking around the property, we saw a pit dug into the ground about 3-4 feet deep that was filled with dirty water – out of previous experience we could tell that it had been used to drown the dogs trapped inside the cages. By the time we arrived, the dogs had already been killed for the day, with their carcasses shipped off to Phnom Penh. Upon further questioning at the dentist’s office, we found that about 50-80 dogs are brought there daily for killing.
It did not take us long to find a second slaughterhouse, which was located right down the street. We parked the car along the main street, and walked down a dusty driveway where we couldn’t believe our eyes. In front of us stood a large dog meat operation including holding areas, slaughtering and processing facilities, and a truck offloading ice that would be used to chill the bodies of the slaughtered dogs.
The horror of the place was indescribable. There was a large permanent metal cage with thick bars bolted to the cement floor, used to hold up to 100 dogs when tightly packed. This is where new arrivals apparently were housed as they were waiting to be killed. As it is common procedure, they often have to wait for days while watching other dogs get killed, with no food or water. In the large cage, dogs were in a horrific state. Many were severely injured, barely alive, with open wounds and one dog had a broken jaw, just hanging from his head loosely. Yet he was still trying to clean another dog, despite his immense pain.
There were also smaller cages, that were used exclusively for drowning. The smaller cages were used to lower dogs into the drowning pit, which was located at the back of the property. In order to transfer dogs from the larger cage to the smaller drowning cages, the smaller cage would be placed adjoining the larger cage, and a small door would be opened in the larger cage, allowing dogs to run into the smaller cage. Often the dogs were so scared, they wouldn’t dare move. To force the dogs into the smaller cage, a heavy metal bar was used to brutally jab the dogs through the top of the large cage. Dogs that refused to move would be beaten with the large pole.
Once the smaller cages were filled, each holding up to 15 dogs, they would be dropped into the drowning pits. For up to 5 minutes dogs would thrash in the water, desperate to get air. But no dog ever survived. Cages were raised out of the water after about 10-15 minutes, and the dogs were then put into a large pot of hot water to scrape off their fur.
The dogs in the cages were severely traumatized, growling and attacking each other in the cage desperate to escape. The sounds were heartbreaking and the sight horrific. Many of the dogs were obviously pets that had been stolen, well-groomed and still wearing their collars. We inquired about where the dogs came from and were told that the dogs were brought in on a truck from Siem Reap region, a 6 hour drive to the North.
We negotiated with the owners for a long time, to allow us to rescue the dogs on-site, however the owners became annoyed by our presence, fearing that we would expose their operation to the public and authorities. We were told we could only take two dogs and had to make the heartbreaking decision as to which dogs to take, while knowing that the others would die a horrific death. We decided to take one puppy, who was desperately crying and trying to get out of the cage, as well as a dog that was obviously someone’s pet, in the hope that we would find a good home for them both.
The two dogs were removed from the cages and we quickly carried them away to safety. These two pups simply could not believe what was happening. The puppy, Luke, was so exhausted from the whole ordeal, that minutes after we were back in the car, he just fell asleep on our laps. Something he probably had not been able to do in days.
The other dog, later named Lion, was severely traumatized, probably in shock from the whole experience. He did not want to fall asleep and was fighting to keep his eyes open. Exhaustion finally overcame him and he dosed off about halfway back to the clinic.
We arrived at our partner clinic, Animal Rescue Cambodia, after about one-hour drive. Adoptions were arranged for each dog soon after rescue so that they could recover in a home environment. Lion was adopted by the mother of our local driver. She is a very caring lady who loves dogs and now takes care of lion at her home in Phnom Penh.
Before being adopted we gave Lion a thorough bathing, as he was filthy and covered in urine and feces. He was still very traumatized and we decided to keep him in the clinic for a few days, to give him some time and space to mentally recover before going into his adoptive home.
The puppy, Luke was adopted by our FOUR PAWS photographer. He was much more forgiving and was bouncing around the next day, like a normal, happy puppy.
Lion was adopted by the mother of our local driver. She is a very caring lady who loves dogs and now takes care of lion at her home in Phnom Penh.