Thai authorities arrested two men as they attempted to smuggle 120 dogs to Vietnam on Tuesday, according to the Bangkok Post.
Civil volunteers stopped two pickup trucks carrying fertilizer sacks containing the dogs, 31 of which had suffocated, at Pho Sai village near the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom province.
The volunteers, who are members of a taskforce unit under the Ban Phaeng District office, apprehended the drivers of the two vehicles Issarapong Sankampai, 24, a Nakhon Phanom native, and Vietnamese national Nguyen Van Son, 23.
The pair confessed to local police they had been hired by a gang to take the dogs across the Mekong River to Vietnam, where dog is a delicacy served at restaurants.
They face charges of unlicensed trade of animals, transporting unvaccinated animals, and torturing animals.
It was not known where the gang had collected the dogs.
The 89 dogs saved by the unit have been sent to Nakhon Phanom Animal Quarantine Station.
As the dog meat trade in Vietnam has flourished over the last several years, so have dog thieves. In some rural areas, local residents have taken the law into their own hands to punish dog thieves, as they think the legal penalties against stealing dogs are too light.
Many dog thieves have been caught and beaten to death, and their motorbikes burned to ashes, by furious residents across the country.
In the latest case on Tuesday (September 6), 31-year-old Nguyen Van Dung was beaten to death by a group of locals at a village in the suburban district of Me Linh in Hanoi.
Dung and his 22-year-old brother, Nguyen The Thach, allegedly drove a motorbike to the village in an attempt to poison and steal dogs, but they were discovered by villagers.
Thach successfully fled the scene on the bike, while Dung was apprehended.
Local police have arrested three locals involved in the fatal beating.
On September 2, Pham Van Tan, a 36-year-old teacher in the central province of Nghe An, was beaten up by residents in a rural village after they mistook him for a dog thief.
Tan was on his way to visit a friend when he realized he was lost. After he stopped to ask a woman for directions, a man showed up and grabbed his collar.
Two young men ran out of a house and screamed out loud: "Dog thief!" They started beating him, while more and more people rushed in to join the beating despite Tan's call for help.
Tan tried to tell the crowd he was not the thief but to no avail. He was beaten by dozens of people with knives and wooden sticks, while his motorbike was burned to ashes.
The crowd only stopped beating him after local police showed up. Tan is being treated at a hospital for multiple injuries.
According to police, since many dogs have been stolen in the village recently, villagers think that any strangers to the village must be dog thieves.