Animal Doctor USA

By Ha-hung Nguyen BBC Vietnamese

The couple on their motorbike Image source, Pham Minh Hung

Image caption,

Videos of the couple travelling with dogs and belongings piled high on a motorcycle went viral on TikTok in October

A Vietnamese couple whose dogs were killed by authorities over Covid fears have adopted new puppies, following an outpouring of public sympathy and donations.

The couple were left heartbroken last October after their 12 dogs were culled without their consent.

Their story, documented on social media app TikTok, sparked a huge backlash in Vietnam over the treatment of animals.

But with the help of donors, the pair have rescued a brood of 15 dogs.

Pham Minh Hung and his wife, Nguyen Thi Chi Em, became internet sensations last year when photos and videos of them travelling with a pack of dogs on motorbikes went viral.

They embarked on a 280km (173-mile) journey from Long An Province to the southern province of Ca Mau, where their relatives live, to escape from rising Covid infections.

But the couple and their three relatives tested positive for the virus after reaching Khanh Hung, where they were transferred to a hospital for treatment. The animals were left at a quarantine centre.

Local officials killed the animals without their owners' consent while they were receiving medical treatment, which they claimed was a "necessary preventative measure" to stem the spread of Covid.

The act was widely condemned by the Vietnamese public as being "barbaric" and "cruel". A petition calling for an end to the practice was launched, garnering more than 150,000 signatures.

Vietnam has deployed a heavy-handed Covid strategy - that featured harsh and frequent lockdowns - for much of the pandemic.

However, in recent months, it has been relaxing restrictions, and will lift the ban on international flights this week. The Southeast Asian country has reported nearly 2.5 million cases so far.

Rescued from slaughter

Mr Pham told BBC Vietnamese Service that he received 120 million dong ($5,300) from several donors.

He paid for medical treatment with the funds, and used some of the money to buy 15 puppies, some of whom were on their way to dog meat shops.

Composite image of two dogs side by side, one beige (L) and the other black (R) Image source, Pham Minh Hung/Nguyen Thi Chi Em

Image caption,

Two of the 15 puppies rescued by the Vietnamese couple, some of whom were destined for dog meat shops

"Some of them looked so bad as they were locked up for their meat, so I bought them and raised them," Mr Pham said.

The 49-year-old said the new dogs had brought solace, but they still could not forget the slain canines.

"When my dogs were killed, I was despondent and cried a lot. At the same time, we had Covid. My family was under a lot of pressure.

"We raised the dogs for six, seven years. I was very sad. During the Lunar New Year, we went back to the place where the dogs were killed and burnt incense for our children."

The couple have recovered from Covid and are planning to go to Ho Chi Minh City. His first priority is to find bricklaying work to save up enough money to become a lottery ticket seller - a job which gives him more time to take care of his "children".

"I love them so much. Raising 15 children is expensive, but I also get help from good people," Mr Pham said.

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