Hanoi - Animal rights activists on Thursday welcomed a move by the Vietnamese government to crack down on illegal imports of dogs in a bid to curb rabies.
A directive which urges stricter inspections and the quarantine of dogs at border areas "will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane dog meat trade in this region," said the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA), an international alliance of animal protection organisations.
The government directive, issued by the Department of Animal Health late last month, calls for the enforcement of existing legislation which bans imports of dogs without rabies vaccinations, health certificates, export licenses and proof of origin.
Rabies is a viral disease spread to humans via the saliva of infected animals - usually dogs - which is nearly always fatal.
Around 100 people a year die from rabies in Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization, most often due to bites from stray dogs.
The country aims to eliminate the disease by 2020.Dog meat is a popular delicacy in Vietnam, and up to 5 million dogs are slaughtered in the country every year for human consumption, according to ACPA.
Although there are no official figures on the numbers of dogs imported into Vietnam, Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam director of ACPA member Animals Asia, said around 90 per cent come from Thailand because they are cheaper. The directive also covers cats - also commonly eaten in Vietnam – but activists say cross-border trade in the animals is not common because they are too hard to catch.