Before Lucky was known as Lucky, he was a nameless dog chained outside a shop in Yulin, China, with a sign in front of him advertising dog meat. He couldn’t have known that death was mere moments away, nor anticipate how his fate might change.

Lucky sits outside the shop where he was bound for slaughter, just before his rescue.

Chinese animal activists—who are ramping up their fight against Yulin’s annual dog meat festival as it approaches later this month—spotted Lucky and noticed his super friendly demeanor, suggesting that he may have once been someone’s pet. It’s likely that he’d been stolen and sold into the meat trade by thieves. The local activists decided to talk to the shopkeeper about letting him go.

To everyone’s delight, the store owner agreed.

Lucky rides away from the store toward his new life.

The streets of Yulin are quiet compared to how they will be later this month, when the so-called lychee and dog meat festival, started by dog traders in 2010 to boost their sales, begins June 21. Every year, activists urge the local authorities to ban the Yulin gathering, and this year they are emphasizing not only the cruelty toward animals but also the threat to public health. Considering COVID-19 is still a risk, a gathering that can attract eaters from across the Guangxi province and elsewhere in China seems especially dangerous.

Further, the Chinese public rarely eat dog meat, despite the determination of dog meat traders to promote it, and there is growing national opposition to the trade. In 2020, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs made an official statement that dogs are companion animals and not “livestock.” And some cities in mainland China have already banned the consumption of dog and cat meat, a sign of shifting public opinion and progress toward a more humane future for these animals.

A de-hairing machine at a dog slaughterhouse in Yulin.

While we rejoice at Lucky’s rescue and are grateful that Lucky will recover at the shelter before being adopted out to a loving home, it is with heavy hearts, knowing that Lucky is just one of millions of dogs caught up in the dog meat trade, a reminder of the work that still lies ahead of us as a community of animal lovers determined to ban this practice for good. Join us in urging governments around the world to eradicate the dog and cat meat trade.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.