(ANIMAL WELFARE/DOGS) Next time you tee-off, think twice about the gloves you’re wearing. Manufacturers in Southeast Asia are using dog skin for everything from golf gloves to musical instruments, like drums and guitars, according to an animal rights group in Thailand. Predominantly they’re using the skin from male dog’s testicles because “it’s particularly soft.”

If it’s not horrifying enough that dogs are being killed for their meat, now their skin is in high demand as well. Police in Thailand made the gruesome discovery of a pile of dog bones and hundreds of dog skins near the Laos border last month. They believe the remains were left by smugglers looking to take them into Vietnam and China, where dog parts are sought-after by restaurants and manufacturers.

Many of these pups are beloved pets, stolen from their homes by unscrupulous smugglers because “they’re easier for the smugglers to catch” than strays. The dogs are then cruelly transported in overcrowded cages and in some cases skinned alive for their leather.

Government in Southeast Asia is supposedly cracking down on this sickening, illegal tradebut are they doing enough? Read on to learn more about the inhumane and torturous treatment these innocent animals are forced to endure and what’s being done to stop it. — Global Animal

Hundreds of smuggled dogs inside cages on a truck seized near the Thai-Laos border province of Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Manufacturers in Southeast Asia are gruesomely using dog skin to make golf gloves./Photo credit: STR/Corbis
Hundreds of smuggled dogs inside cages on a truck seized near the Thai-Laos border province of Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Smugglers sell the skin to leather manufacturers in China and Vietnam who are then using the skin of dog testicles to make golf gloves./Photo credit: STR/Corbis

Bloomberg Businessweek, Bruce Einhorn

Police in northeastern Thailand made a grisly discovery last week. Abandoned in a forest near the border with Laos were hundreds of dog skins alongside a pile of dog bones.They were probably left by smugglers who wanted to take them through Laos and then on to Vietnam or China. In those countries, demand for dog parts for consumption in restaurants is strong.

Even though it's illegal to kill dogs for meat in Thailand, pets are still being stolen there by smugglers looking to cash in on the lucrative  market in China, where dog meat is considered a delicacy and dog skin is being used to make golf gloves, wallets and hats./Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk
Even though it’s illegal to kill dogs for meat in Thailand, pets are still being stolen by smugglers looking to cash in on the lucrative market in China, where dog meat is considered a delicacy and dog skin is used to make golf gloves, wallets and hats./Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

Not just the dog meat is prized. Factories use leather from dog skin for use in everything from drums to guitars, says John Dalley, co-founder and vice-president of the Soi Dog Foundation, a nongovernmental organization in Thailand devoted to canine welfare.

Manufacturers of golf gloves also prize dog leather, Dalley adds, especially from the skin of the testicles of male dogs:

“because that skin is particularly soft.” (Alibaba.com, the business-to-business website owned by Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, has lots of listings for gloves made from dogs.)

Dalley, an Englishman who retired to the Thai island of Phuket a decade ago, is optimistic that governments in Southeast Asia are finally taking effective action to crack down on the widespread illegal business. Last year, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand agreed to stop the trade in live dogs for use in the dog-meat industry in Vietnam. And in February, the Vietnamese government pledged to inspect border crossings more closely to stop traders from taking dogs into the country. The measures are having an impact. While some half-a-million dogs a year were probably transported in 2011, he says, now “the numbers are well down.”

Still, as the March 25 discovery of abandoned dog skins shows, a lot of work remains to be done. Dog smugglers might be trying to outsmart the authorities by switching away from live dogs and focusing on frozen dog meat, says Dalley, who founded Soi Dog Foundation with his wife, Gill, after moving to Phuket in 2003.

And while the Vietnamese government may be trying harder to prevent smugglers from crossing the border between Vietnam and Laos. Traders have plenty of resources to bribe officials.

“The smugglers are paying huge amounts of money to authorities to turn the other way,” says Dalley.

Thailand has a large population of stray dogs wandering the streets of major towns and cities, but most of those captured for meat or pelts are stolen from pet owners or temples.

“Stray dogs are extremely difficult to catch,” explains Dalley. “It’s far easier to catch pet dogs or unwanted service dogs.” The illegal trade is based on “extreme cruelty from start to finish,” he adds. “We see over 100 dogs stuffed into cages in the back of pickup trucks. Lots of dogs are skinned alive. It’s a horrendous industry with absolutely no regulation.”

Dogs are cruelly stuffed in cages by smugglers and illegally transported to Vietnam or China where there's a strong demand for dog parts./Photo credit: nydailynews.com
Dogs are cruelly stuffed in cages by smugglers and illegally transported to Vietnam or China where there’s a huge demand for dog parts./Photo credit: nydailynews.com

Officials taking action against the dog trade are not necessarily motivated by concern about stolen pets and animal welfare. Southeast Asian governments are trying to fight the spread of rabies, making the trade in illegal dogs a public health issue. About 100 people in Vietnam die annually from rabies, with most cases caused by unvaccinated dogs.

With traders transporting so many animals, chances that dogs will escape and spread rabies are high. “Some of the trucks have 2,000 dogs on them. and inevitably, some will escape,” Dalley says. “You are looking at potential of spreading rabies throughout the region because of mass movement of dogs.”

More Bloomberg Businessweek: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-02/the-leather-on-those-golf-gloves-might-come-from-a-stolen-pet-in-thailand

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