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For many of us, cats and dogs are the staple of domesticated pets. They become members of our families, making it impossible to fathom eating them for pleasure. And yet there are 44 U.S. states that do nothing to prohibit it. According to the Humane Society, Virginia, California, Hawaii, New York, Georgia, and Michigan are the only states with laws that specifically ban the consumption of dogs and cats. Meanwhile, in Asia, China hosts a massive dog meat festival every year.

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Such news is disheartening, but Taiwan is bringing hope to a heavy reality.

The country is set to become the first in Asia to ban the consumption of dog and cat meat, due to pet ownership increasing across the continent. Anyone who abuses the revised Animal Protection Act faces a fine of up to 250,000 Taiwan dollars. Furthermore, animal cruelty or slaughter offences have been raised to up to two years in prison, along with fines of up to 2m Taiwan dollars. And for repeat offenders, they can see up to five years and even harsher fines. Under the new law, convictions can become subject to public shame as well — their names and photos published by the government.

The new law also takes into consideration pet’s safety rights, making it illegal for a pet to be walked while its guardian is riding a scooter or driving a car. The amendment, which is pending a signature by the president, may go into effect by the end of April.

The dog meat trade is massive in Asia as a whole. There are an estimated two million dogs slaughtered for food every year in South Korea, for example.

Taiwan’s groundbreaking move gives animal right campaigners hope that a “growing trend” will arise to finally end animal cruelty.

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Taiwan has been enacting animal cruelty bans since 2001, when it passed legislation prohibiting the sale of meat and fur of pets like cats and dogs due to “economic purposes.” And last year, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen adopted three retired guide dogs to live along with her two cats, Cookie and A-Tsai, which citizens began calling the country’s new “first family.” Tsai is the country’s first female leader.

“Taiwan’s progressive ban is part of a growing trend across Asia to end the brutal dog meat trade, and reflects the fact that a huge number of people in Asian countries do not in fact eat dog and cat and are appalled by the cruel and often crime-fuelled trade,” Wendy Higgins of the Humane Society International said in a statement.

“Taiwan also sends a strong signal to countries such as China and South Korea where the dog meat trade remains and millions of dogs are killed by beating, hanging or electrocution for eating. It’s time for change, and bans like the one in Taiwan utterly dispel the myth that this is promoted by Western sentimentality. The animal protection movement is growing rapidly across Asia and the calls for an end to dog meat cruelty are getting louder and louder.”

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