A resident in Ho Chi Minh City shot at by a dog thief has become the latest incident in a spiraling conflict between dog owners in Vietnam and those seeking to provide canine meat to restaurants serving the delicacy.
Around noon on December 19, local residents found four men on two motorbikes catching a dog in Hoc Mon District's Tien Lan Hamlet, Ba Diem Commune.
Pham Thanh Hai said he and other residents were standing some 20 meters away from the thieves when they caught the dog and put it into a bag.
"They drove by us and threatened to kill us," he said. "Then, a man on the rear seat pointed a self-made gun at me and pulled the trigger."
Hai said the gun was around half a meter in length and it shot a piece of stone that hit his face. He was taken to the communal medical station and had to have eight sutures.
Dog meat is an accepted popular delicacy in Vietnam as well as some other Asian countries.
In Hanoi's Duong Noi Village, hundreds of dogs are killed each day for sale.
Experts say dog-eating as a custom developed as a result of poverty. One kilogram of dog meat costs about VND130,000 (US$6.2).
Demand for the meat has seen many dog catchers hunt the animals on city streets for sale to butchers and restaurants. With many people keeping dogs as pets, this has led to rising conflict between the thieves and owners that have turned very violent.
Several dog stealers have been caught and beaten to death. In some cases the thieves have managed to flee and their motorbikes have been burnt.
A police official in Nghe An Province said the "rampant" dog thefts have drawn the ire of the public over the past several years.
He said that when most local residents catch a dog thief they don't bother to call the police. Instead, they beat the thieves to death and set fire to their remains.
He said lenient laws accounted for the excessive violence. He said police typically fine dog thieves when they are caught and let them go. Criminal charges are filed only in cases where the stolen property is worth at least VND2 million ($97). A dog is much cheaper than that.