BANGKOK - Thai authorities have rescued more than a thousand dogs, which were found stuffed into tiny cages and being smuggled out of the country to be cooked and eaten in Vietnam, officials said Saturday.
Police intercepted four trucks stacked high with crates packed with the animals in an operation on Thursday evening in Nakhon Phanom province in northeastern Thailand near the border with Laos.
A Nakhon Phanom livestock development official said 1,011 dogs were being held in a government shelter after two separate raids in Nathom and Si Songkhram districts.
She said an additional 119 had died either through suffocation in the cramped cages or when they were thrown from the back of the trucks as the alleged traffickers sped away from arresting officers.
Two Thai men and a Vietnamese man have been charged with trafficking and the illegal transportation of animals, police case officer Captain Prawat Pholsuwan told AFP.
"The maximum punishment is a one year jail term and a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($670)," he said.
The dogs were transported from nearby Sakon Nakhon province and were destined to be taken across the Mekong river in Laos and into Vietnam, Prawat added.
Traffickers, who round up stray dogs and barter for pets in rural Thai villages, can receive up to $33 per dog in Vietnam, police said.
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