In the grand scheme of things it probably doesn't seem like much to you and me, but to Cun, Muc, and Ven, their rescue from a Vietnamese market means a great deal. It means love instead of cruelty. It means pleasure over pain. It means life over death.

The Rescue

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After an exhausting 58-hour journey of more than 7,900 miles (13,640 kilometres) from Vietnam to Canada, three puppies rescued from a meat market by The Humane Society of Canada have found safe and loving homes. The three puppies named Cun (‘beloved’), Muc (‘black’) and Ven (‘tiger’) are all about four months of age. The journey began in Hanoi then on to Kuala Lumpur and from there to London and then on to Toronto.

“The Hanoi market was full of terrified puppies and kittens in cramped wire cages, awaiting slaughter. I still have nightmares about leaving dozens of them behind. I can still hear their cries,” said HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan, who has worked here in Canada and in over 85 countries during the last 30 years.

O’Sullivan wants to work with the Government of Vietnam and Vietnamese animal protectionists to phase out the practice of killing puppies and kittens and establish a system of nationwide animal shelters. He also intends to return to Vietnam and rescue more puppies and kittens, which he refers to as “the ones we left behind.” His group’s preliminary investigation indicates that the practice of eating puppies and kittens, only about 100 years old, is actually a Chinese one that some Vietnamese have imitated, and is more common in the northern part of the country.

“The animals are beaten to tenderize the meat and bring the blood to the surface under the skin, before they are killed by slamming their heads against a wall,” he said. Some Vietnamese believe that eating the puppies and kittens brings good luck and that by the spirit and life force of the animals moves on to a higher plane.

“These puppies and kittens cry out in terror when someone touches them, because they never know if someone is going to pet them or hit them,” said O’Sullivan. “However, after a warm bath, some food and water, and kindness, the puppies realized they were safe, and started to relax and behave like normal puppies.”

O’Sullivan rejects the notion Canadians don’t have the right to question why puppies and kittens are being killed. “People are so busy being politically correct that animals and people suffer around the world. It’s just another excuse to sit back and do nothing. And frankly, I’m sick and tired of it,” he said.

“Cruelty to animals isn’t anyone’s cultural right, including right here in Canada. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, Vietnam is not at war. Any country that doesn’t respect the rights of animals doesn’t respect the rights of people. Pain and suffering are indeed cruel facts of life. But the pain and suffering that we deliberately inflict on animals and people is something we can prevent from ever taking place, ” said O’Sullivan.

He also says that history has shown us that improving the lives of livestock, laboratory animals, wildlife and preventing harm to the environment has often begun with dogs and cats, our closest companions. There is a proven link between early childhood abuse towards animals and later violent acts towards people. The FBI recognizes animal abuse as one of the three primary indicators of criminal behaviour.

“The cycle of violence it seems is continuous. Child abuse, wife beating and even murder. The way we treat animals is a reflection of the way we treat each other,” he said.

However, even though the three puppies have found safe and loving homes, this story is also touched with sadness. O’Sullivan originally brought five puppies back with him, but two of them died, despite the heroic efforts of veterinarians to save them.

“All of the puppies were fully vaccinated, and received health checks from two veterinarians before they left Vietnam, were cleared through Canada Customs, and then examined by the our own veterinarian. However, they showed no symptoms until about five days after we got them home,” said O’Sullivan.

One male puppy named Vang (‘gold’) died of parvovirus, which destroys white blood cells; and the other female puppy named Bong (‘flower’) died from distemper, which attacks the central nervous system. While these diseases still exist to a certain degree in Canada, most puppies and dogs are protected by annual vaccinations. The diseases cannot be passed on to humans or other animals.

“There were a lot of tears around our house,” said O’Sullivan, who has two small children. He and his family also share their home with three dogs and two cats of their own.

“I know one thing for certain. If we hadn’t brought them back from Vietnam all of them would surely be dead by now. A friend also gave us comfort during this very difficult time when she told us: “I worked in Vietnam for six weeks, and saw terrible cruelty. I don’t know if these little guys are going to make it or not, but you’ve given them more love in the last few weeks than they’ve ever had in their lives.”

NEWS CONFERENCE: Sunday, August 25/2001 from 11 am to 1 pm at the home of HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan, located at 28 Fernwood Park Avenue, Toronto (map with directions available). O’Sullivan will be available to answer questions, accompanied by the three surviving puppies he rescued. BETA SP footage, colour photographs and a typical cage used in the meat markets are also available.

Help us go back and rescue more of these bundles of fur so we can give them loving homes. We know that cruelty exists in Canada, the United States and throughout the world, and as an organization we can't even begin to be effective in every case we take on.

But sometimes when it looks up and stares you in the face, you can't just walk away from it. No great plan, no false promises, just a determined effort to try and help a few creatures and ourselves escape briefly from the horror of existence.

FOR INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan toll free at 1-800-641-KIND or cell phone at (416) 876-9685 or visit our website at www.humanesociety.com