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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Restaurant Investigated for Serving Dog

MTThe number of stray dogs in the city is officially estimated at 26,000.
A Chinese restaurant in southwest Moscow is being investigated on suspicion of rounding up dogs on the street, killing them and passing their cooked meat off to customers as lamb, city police said Monday.

Two residents went to police after seeing suspicious activity near the restaurant, located at 88 Prospekt Vernadskogo, near the Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station, police spokeswoman Irina Volk said.

"They reported seeing a truck pull up to the restaurant and restaurant employees unloading bags in which something was moving and whining," Volk said.

After the tip-off, undercover police officers went and posed as clients, ordering a number of dishes from the restaurant, which is located in a dormitory near Moscow State Pedagogical University and caters primarily to Chinese and Vietnamese clientele, as well as local students, Volk said.

"Tests showed that the meat being sold as lamb was actually dog meat," Volk said.

Most of the dogs were strays, and many were sick, but several of the dogs likely had owners and had merely gotten lost, she said.

The dog meat was sold as lamb to most of the restaurant's clients, but it was advertised as dog to its Chinese clientele, she said.

The consumption of dog meat is common in some parts of Asia -- particularly China and the Koreas.

Police have opened a criminal investigation in connection with the sale of dangerous food items, punishable by up to three years in prison, and could also open an investigation into charges of cruelty to animals, which carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.

"We have reason to believe that the dogs were killed in ways that were not humane," Volk said.

She said owners of the restaurant were most likely Chinese and that they had not been charged as of Monday.

Official estimates of stray dogs in the city put their number at about 26,000, and reports of people and restaurants killing strays for food are not uncommon, said Irina Novozhilova, head of the animal rights group Vita.

"We received four complaints this summer alone," Novozhilova said.

In July 2004, city police arrested Maxim Kolov, 21, and charged him with cruelty to animals for allegedly killing his landlady's dog, a 1-year-old husky-collie named Tuzik, and frying the dead animal up for him and his friend to eat.