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Cat lover takes dealer to court

Minhang District People's Court is considering whether to hear a case brought by an animal lover against a man who stole cats in order to sell them to be eaten in Guangdong Province.

At filing the law suit on Tuesday, Liu Xiaoyun told the court she wanted 50,000 yuan (US$7,316) in compensation from a cat-meat dealer called Zhang Zhen'an.

Liu said she had kept cats for dozens of years but many have gone missing, and she suspected they were being taken by cat dealers to Guangdong, where cat meat is considered a delicacy.

On November 26 last year, Liu heard of a truck loaded with stolen cats on Fanghe Road in Minhang District. She and other animal lovers managed to stop the truck and found a number of their cats inside. The pets were taken back with the help of police.

Zhang, the driver, went to the police the following day claiming Liu and others had stolen his cats, but the police doubted his story and in the end he admitted the cats were not his.

This wasn't the first time Liu had met Zhang. Last May she tried to persuade him to give up the cat-meat business by giving him 5,000 yuan and promising help if Zhang even had any problems. Zhang took her money but went on catching and selling cats, Liu said.

Liu told the court she had stopped Zhang's cat-crammed truck more than 10 times in the past.

However, she said she could no longer afford to spend the time and energy chasing Zhang, which is what prompted her to take the matter to court.

Liu said Zhang had stolen and damaged her property, and asked for 50,000 yuan to cover what she'd spent looking for lost cats, plus veterinary bills and compensation for her mental anguish for losing some of her cats.

Zhang wasn't in court for the hearing and his mobile phone remained unanswered.

Liu's lawyer, Liu Fuyuan, claimed the case could be a breakthrough for animal rights. "As long as the lawsuit is accepted by the court, it is a victory for us," said Liu Fuyuan. "If we can win the case, it will serve as a warning to other cat dealers. They will know they can be financially punished if they continue the illegal trade in cat meat."

"Cats are forced into cages," Liu Xiaoyun said. "They are abused and neglected. When I think that my cats might end up on someone's table I feel inconsolable."

Gu Xiaoming, a sociologist from Fudan University, said the lawsuit was an important social step forward, saying it indicated the rights of animals such as cats and dogs are increasingly respected. He also suggested authorities draw up laws to protect animal welfare.

The court has yet to decide whether to hear the case. The date of the next hearing has not yet been set.


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