By Vo Hai  September 12, 2018 | 09:44 am GMT+7 Several stolen dogs are seized by Vietnamese authorities. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Thao It’s official. Hanoi wants residents to stop eating cats and dogs to preserve the city’s ‘public image.’ The Hanoi People’s Committee has issued a statement saying the killing and selling of dogs and cats for human consumption is creating a negative image of the city in the eyes of international tourists and expats. This dietary preference is tarnishing Hanoi’s image as “civilized and modern, ” the statement says, adding, “the city wants people to see the value in treating animals humanely.” The People’s Committee has asked district authorities to compile and update data and statistics on the number of dogs kept as pets in the city, and to communicate to owners how to prevent zoonotic diseases like rabies or cholera. Hanoi currently has approximately 500, 000 dogs and cats kept as pets, according to the city authorities. Most of them, 87 percent, are kept for “housekeeping purposes, ” while the rest are bred to be sold or consumed as food. The Vietnamese market consumes an estimated five million dogs per year, second only to China, which eats roughly 20 million. It has been reported that many of the dogs eaten are stolen pets sold to small, unregulated abattoirs and killed in brutal ways. Dog theft is rarely treated as a criminal offense in Vietnam, unless they are valued at more than VND2 million (approximately $100).