A squad of dozens of police officers had to rescue two dog thieves from an angry mob in the northern province of Ninh Binh on Monday.
The incident happened at around 6 am when Nguyen Van Hieu and Nguyen Xuan Giang, both 23, allegedly stole Dam Tu Thanh's dog, Dan Tri newspaper reported.
Hundreds of local residents in Nho Quan District blocked all roads to the commune and managed to catch the duo and lock them up in a local house.
Many had allegedly had their dogs stolen in the past.
As the mob began beating the two men, a concerned resident tipped off the local police who arrived at the scene only to be repelled by a mob of over 300 residents.
The mob vented their frustration with rampant dog theft. One local resident was allegedly killed while trying to catch a pair of thieves in the past.
The mob demanded that police hold the two men accountable for all past thefts in the commune.
The officers attempted to protect the thieves from the mob's blows, while calling for backup. Traffic police were mobilized to the scene to clear the resulting gridlock.
More than 30 police officers arrived at the scene, but they were not able to get the thieves to safety until 2 pm.
A police source said the duo would have been killed by the mob if they had arrived any later.
Police are investigating the case further.
Dog theft remains a problem throughout Vietnam since canines are mostly stolen and resold to restaurants and markets.
The ease of the trade has led to several fatal encounters between thieves and angry mobs. Many small communities have banded together to kill the thieves and burn their motorbikes since the law only allows police to release them with a fine.
Last week, two wanted dog thieves turned themselves in at a police station in the north-central province of Nghe An after they learned that they had electrocuted a local cop.
On December 2, Nguyen Van Cuong, 28, and Nguyen Van Duong, 27, were caught red-handed selling a stolen dog to Nguyen Cong Huu in the province’s Yen Thanh District.
The duo attempted to attack the police and managed to escape.
They later turned themselves in after learning that Huu had been arrested for buying stolen property.