53 dogs were rescued from an Indonesian slaughterhouse during a nationwide crackdown on the dog meat trade.

In the pre-dawn hours of November 24th, 2021, a truck sat idled, its exhaust mixing with the smell of the slaughterhouse it was parked near.

After making the rounds through the country’s various provinces, the truck and its illicit cargo ended up here, in Java, Indonesia, waiting to hand over 50 live dogs to a death sentence.

Thankfully, things wouldn’t go according to plan — shortly before the crew was due to begin their slaughter, authorities intervened.

Police surrounded the truck, ready to apprehend those responsible. Also on site were volunteers with the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition, ready to provide medical care to the rescued animals.

“My heart was pounding in my chest as we approached the truck, because I could hear the dogs’ pitiful whimpering and then saw them all tied up in sacks, their soft muzzles squeezed shut with wire,” Humane Society International’s Lola Webber told Dog Meat Free Indonesia. “They were extremely traumatised and frightened. Many of them were still wearing collars, and were no doubt many miles from home, likely stolen pets grabbed from the streets.”

The bust was part of the country’s first large-scale crackdown, which also involved the arrest of a man whom authorities allege has been at the center of the country’s trade for the last 20 years. In all, 53 dogs were rescued from the back of the truck; one had sadly passed away before help arrived.

Though widely condemned in the country, (More than 93% of citizens support a nationwide ban, and fewer than 5% admit to eating dog meat) dog meat continues to be a lucrative trade.

“Dog meat consumption is considered culture by some, but cultures evolve and so must we,” Mr. Tarjono Sapto Nugroho, Head of the Sukoharjo Police Crime Investigation department explained in a press release. “We initiated this interception and confiscation to protect our communities and to support the Central Javan government’s efforts to eradicate the dog meat eating culture and trade.”

Not only does the trade contribute to cruel, inhumane animal abuse, but it also puts the country at risk of diseases like rabies and separates beloved pets from their families.

“Rabies is a grave concern in Indonesia, and Central Java is one of only eight provinces declared rabies-free, so… a zero-tolerance approach by the authorities is absolutely vital to protect citizens from the public health risk posed by the dog meat trade,” Karin Franken from Jakarta Animal Aid Network told the site.

Dog Meat Free Indonesia will make every effort to reunite families and their pets, but the odds of that happening are slim.

Still, the 53 dogs rescued in the raid received not only lifesaving medical treatment and care but have now been placed with fosters in the country and abroad. Some will be flown to Humane Society International’s Canada shelter.

Learn more about the amazing work of Dog Meat Free Indonesia and Humane Society International at their official sites, and watch footage of the rescue in the video below: