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Saigon Restaurant Faces Boycott Over Gruesome Poisoning of Stray Cats

Over the past week, animal lovers in Saigon were shocked to learn of a deliberate poisoning aimed at stray cats living in a local apartment complex. 

In an interview with Zing, Hải Yến, who owns a business at the old apartment building at 151 Đồng Khởi Street, District 1, confirmed that she and other inhabitants have spotted numerous dead cats due to suspected poisoning. As of last Saturday, it was estimated that over 20 stray cats had died.

“I have worked here for 11–12 years. The area used to have a rat problem, but it was taken care of after the stray cats appeared,” she explained in Vietnamese. “Most residents are fine with their [the cats] presence here and we feed them every day. Last Saturday, seeing them die en masse due to poison, we were heartbroken and frustrated.”

T., another resident in the apartment building, told the news source that her brother-in-law was the person who collected the bodies of the poisoned cats. She also expressed grief at the passing of the many cats whom she had fed and played with over the years.

Team 16, an independent cat shelter and rescue group, told Zing that so far they had taken in 4–5 cats who managed to avoid the mass killing. “Many mother cats died, leaving behind their litter. We’re trying to find them because we fear they might be next,” Vũ, a Team 16 representative, said. “A few days ago, we managed to save a pregnant cat, and she recently gave birth safely.”

It was unclear last week how the poisonings happened, though on Saturday, May 28, the owner of The Olive Steakhouse, a restaurant in the same complex, admitted to placing the poison via a post on the business’ Facebook page.

“I admit that I have wronged them [the cats], there’s no word that can absolve my actions, and I deserve to receive everyone’s harsh words,” the post reads. “I hope that I have a chance to make up for my mistake. To improve the lives of unfortunate cats, we want to make a donation to the shelter with sincerity.”

According to the post, the owner had been annoyed by the poor hygiene in the building due to cat excrement for a while, though efforts to tackle the problem in collaboration with other tenants had allegedly been unfruitful.

“I had never had a pet and was not aware of rescue groups, so I didn’t reach out to the right organization to help,” the owner writes. “Because of long-term exhaustion and stress, I acted stupidly, negatively, and recklessly.”

The Olive Steakhouse officially opened in January 2018, but had to temporarily close in 2021 due to the pandemic. The owner told Zing in a separate interview that the stray cats have been in the building for years, but the hygiene issues weren’t as bad. After the restaurant reopened this February, the stray population increased, and so did the smell problems.

While it’s unclear if the restaurant is still operating at this time, netizens in Vietnam have started a campaign to call for a boycott, spearheaded by prominent animal activists and rescue groups.

[Photo: The facade of 151 Đồng Khởi in 2015/Photo via Blogspot user whereisfatboy]

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