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Man bites dog? It's legal to eat dogs and cats in 44 states

The meat can't be sold commercially but feasting on Fido is perfectly legal in many locales

A Jindo dog (Photo © ghadel - Fotolia)

Would you eat them in a boat? Would you eat them with a goat? How about with a side of fries? You probably think the next line has something to do with Green Eggs and Ham. No, it has to do with dogs and cats. Would you eat them?

It is legal to eat dogs in China, also South Korea. Cat meat can be found on the menu in China, South Korea, Vietnam and even parts of South America. Millions are eaten in these countries. It's a long-standing culinary tradition.

Rosalyn Morrison, who lived in South Korea for two years and now works for Born Free USA, spent many hours investigating the sale of dogs in South Korea for human consumption.

"According to the tradition, if you scare the dog before it dies it makes the meat more tender," she said. "Dogs are either hung, electrocuted, or beaten to death while cats are boiled alive. The inhumane treatment of animals for the sake of a cultural tradition can no longer be justified in civilized society."

To us in the United States it is an appalling thought to eat our pets, but better grab the leash of your favorite dog and hide your silverware.

Legal in 44 states

It is legal in 44 states to eat a dog or a cat. What? Yes, your dog could end up on a plate with a side of rice and a carrot curl for garnish. It is illegal to sell dog or cat meat in the United States but 44 states allow its personal consumption. Indian reservations are exempt from such restrictions.

What this means is you can humanely kill and eat a dog or cat but you can't sell it at a restaurant or supermarket. You can invite the neighbors over for dinner, though.

It really comes down to the language of the law in each state and how a judge would interpret animal cruelty. Some states, such as Virginia, bar the unnecessary killing of an animal, with a specific exemption for "farming activities." Dogs and cats aren't considered farm animals for the most part so it probably would get you in some trouble if you were to routinely dine on dogs and cats there.

The state of New York prohibits "any person to slaughter or butcher domesticated dog or domesticated cat to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption."

California prohibits the consumption of the carcass of an animal that was “traditionally or commonly kept as a pet.” Violation is a misdemeanor.

Georgia prohibits the sale of dog or cat meat for human consumption.

Michigan law provides that horse and dog meat must be plainly labeled or it is a misdemeanor.

Earlier this year, Hawaii State Senator Clayton Hee introduced Bill 2026, which would have made the slaughter or trafficking of dogs or cats for human consumption illegal but the bill never made it out of committee.

Jindo dogs

Pennsylvania has been working to make it illegal. This state actually had some issue with this about 10 years ago. In Philadelphia, 150 Jindo dogs -- which are dogs that are bred in South Korea for meat and pelts -- were taken from someone who told humane officers the animals were bred as guard dogs and for meat.

Authorities shut down the kennel. It did have a license but the conditions were unsanitary and it was closed. It was closed because it was unsanitary not because of the meat issue.

There was also an issue with a restaurant that was closed when 50 cats were chained in the basement -- an individual was actually butchering the cats when law enforcement came in.

In 2007 yet another incident where some veterinary students from the University of Pennsylvania reported that a neighbor was cooking a dog.

Rep. John Maher, Pennsylvania authored House Bill 1750 in the Pennsylvania Legislature that would also make it illegal to breed, process, or sell dogs and cats for human consumption. It passed easily through the House but is now sitting in the Senate.

There is one caveat with the bill though, that could cause trouble. An amendment was added that included a ban on live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania . This has been presented 26 times and never passed on its own. We are talking guns, anything that shoots. Which means the NRA has taken note.

Pigeon shoots

"The NRA doesn't want them to take away their right to shoot. It is cruel to shoot pigeons. People will put them in these little boxes and or cages open the lid or hatch and let them out and just start shooting," Maher said. "That is not fair -- some can even barely move before they are shot.That is not hunting." Maher also said. "Pennsylvania is the only state that allows this."

There is currently no federal law that would prohibit the sale of dog or cat meat for human consumption. There is no legislative intent for the federal government to preempt the states in this area.

It all boils down to semantics with these laws. Soon it may no longer boil down to cats and dogs.

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