PHNOM PENH -- Dognappings are sharply up in some areas of Cambodia as people seek alternative sources of protein and the prices of more conventional meats continue to rise, dog owners and police said Wednesday.
Military police officer Ra Dy, who lives on the outskirts of the capital, said he personally had lost three dogs in quick succession and had decided to stop keeping any more until things settled down.
"If you check on them every hour, they might still be there, but if you forget and leave them for two hours, they are gone," he said.
Khieu Viriya, 22, a dog fancier from the western suburb of Toul Tom Poung, said he has also lost three dogs recently to thieves.
"And the story is the same for the neighbors, too. It is terrible to lose a dog, because they are like family, but even worse when you know they are to be eaten," he said.
Traditionally most Cambodians have refused to eat dog, viewing it as an unclean meat, although in 2003 the capital's mayor urged citizens to consume more to keep the stray dog population down.
Dog is sold in some restaurants, including high-end Korean establishments, and has become increasingly popular as a drinking snack amongst the country's avid rice wine fans as an energy food.
Dy said organized bands of dog thieves had begun cruising the city, snaring dogs with wire nooses and speeding off on motorbikes.
Vendors said although dog, sometimes euphemistically sold as "special meat," remains inexpensive, like pork and other meats it has nearly doubled in value in recent months.Other exotic meats such as rat have also nearly doubled in price, but with the rice harvest still months away, the rodents are out of season, pushing up the demand for dog and other alternatives.