Tom Livingstone – Every year in Bali thousands of dogs are snatched in the middle of the night and sold for meat in what is known as the "dogma" trade.
The practice is brutal – in many cases the dogs are hung by their neck and left to slowly bleed out as it's believed the adrenalin makes them taste better.
According to Bali Animal Welfare Association, there are an estimated 450,000 dogs in Bali – made up of both local and imported breeds – thousands of which will end up served on a dish.
Why is consumption of dog meat still accepted?
"There is technically no national law or regulation that explicitly outlaws the preparation and sale of dog meat," BAWA's Janice Girardi told 9news.com.au.
Regulations exist covering animal cruelty and safe food preparation; however, it is difficult to enforce them, allowing groups to continue operating the dog meat trade.
In 2017, after an extensive investigation by animal welfare group Animals Australia, the then Bali Governor, I Made Mangku Pastika, issued a Surat Edaran (Official letter) advising local police and regions that the sale of dog meat was not safe due to risk of rabies contamination and exposure to other potentially deadly side effects as the dogs are commonly caught after they've been by poisoned.
Bali's head of Animal Husbandry and Health Bapak Madriana told 9news.com.au, while the government was against the capture and consumption of dogs, it was difficult to police it even with last year's Surat Edaran.
"There is no criminal sanction for people who ignore the letter discouraging dog meat sales, however there are serious criminal penalties for stealing the dogs," Mr Madriana told 9news.com.au.
While the letter instructed regions to collect data on where dog meat was being sold and to educate – through schools and community programs – that consumption of dog meat was dangerous, those in the industry soon moved their businesses underground.
"Signs have been taken down, some stores try to run their businesses by selling meat without promoting it out the front," Jakarta Animal Aid Network's Femke den Haas told 9news.com.au.
Rabies returned to the popular holiday island in 2008, when a rabid dog from a fisherman's boat jumped on to the island.
Since then, BAWA has confirmed over 100 human deaths from rabies and as a result the government has allowed mass culls in regions where it has been reported.
Vaccines against rabies are available and not-for-profit groups like BAWA and Bali Pet Crusaders have spent countless hours trying to immunise the dog population against the disease, but poachers use the virus as an excuse to hunt dogs then sell what they collect in the dogma trade.
In those instances, a highly toxic pesticide called strychnine is often used to poison the dogs.
"It's been very disheartening to see so much energy spent on treating, sterilising and vaccinating dogs that end up being culled and poisoned by individuals in the dog meat trade," Ms Girardi told 9news.com.au.
Last year, an Animals Australia investigation found evidence of poisoned dog meat being served to humans, sometimes under the guise of other dishes.
How are dog meat traders operating?
"Stray dogs aren't the only ones being used for their meat," Ms Girardi said.
"Unwanted dogs are often sold into the trade as well as dogs exclusively bred for food and family pets which are stolen and poisoned."
Dogs in Bali are free to roam the streets and often sleep on the footpath out the front of their compounds, with locals giving them food and water. This is when poachers strike.
"The dogs are also taken with metal slings and then hung from a rope around their necks to have more adrenaline inside the meat before they are killed with a knife," Ms den Haas said.
"The dogs are then burned to get rid of the hair. During this process, the dogs are often still conscious."
9news.com.au spoke with *Khan, a local who asked to remain anonymous, who had tried dog meat. "It was awful. They served it as a satay. I had one stick and couldn't eat anymore," he said.
"People want to buy it because it is an affordable choice for the poor. They also believe it is good for their health. I would tell those wanting to try it, don't eat it. The dog is not a food, it's a friend. Dog meat is not a good taste."
The most popular methods for serving the meat is to cook it in a satay, fry it up or add it to a soup.
What is being done about it?
So far, of the 76 outlets which were known to be serving dog meat in Bali, 33 are reportedly no longer operating courtesy of authoritative action.
"Indonesia has some strong animal welfare laws, but these have not been well enforced," Animals Australia's Dr Jennifer Hood told 9news.com.au.
Because modern Indonesian law doesn't classify a dog as food, animal cruelty laws policing how they are killed and how much pain they are subjected to is the strongest defence.
Mr Madriana said that the Balinese government would like to see dog meat consumption outlawed one day, but because different villages are under different leadership, having uniform rules is a slow process.
He said even if future regulations are put in place, there will not be criminal sanctions attached to them.
"There is no criminal sanction for people who ignore the regulation of selling dog meat, however there are serious criminal penalties for stealing the dogs," he said.
Under Indonesian law, if you are caught stealing a dog you can be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison. If someone is caught beating or using a weapon on a dog, they can be sentenced to a maximum of 12 years.
While change is slow, recently members of BAWA were able to meet with National Parliament which is revising its criminal code in an effort to strengthen the existing animal cruelty laws.
Animals Australia is also working with the law faculty at Udayana University, in Denpasar, to address different laws and regulations in different districts.
Sanur Kaja, in Denpasar's south, is the only village so far to develop a Perdes (village regulation), ruling against eating dog meat.
"Village leaders can make cultural regulations for banning the dog meat trade and they would apply to all community members regardless of faith," Mr Madriana said.
Bapak Asrama, the sub-head of Animal Health for the Badung region, reiterated the importance of getting the different villages on the same page.
"It needs process and time because it is related to people's preferences," Mr Asrama told 9news.com.au.
"With the amounts of tribes and cultures in the community, this makes it hard to stop. The government will aim to stop the sale of dog meat first, then stop the consumption."