North Korea has launched a clampdown on the ownership of pet dogs among the Pyongyang elite as food supplies run short.
Trumpeted as protecting the country against capitalist "decadence," the move appears aimed at appeasing increasing public discontent amid the dire economic situation.
According to a source, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued a ban on pet ownership in July, denouncing it as "a 'tainted' trend by bourgeois ideology."
"Authorities have identified households with pet dogs and are forcing them to give them up or forcefully confiscating them and putting them down."
Some of the dogs are sent to state-run zoos or sold to dog meat restaurants, the source added.
Pet owners are "cursing Kim Jong-un behind his back," but there is little they can do, according to the source.
Animal rights are even lower on the regime's agenda than human rights. Pet ownership was long considered Western decadence, but attitudes seem to have relaxed after the North hosted the World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989, and the Pyongyang elite started flaunting expensive lapdogs as status symbols.
The source said, "Ordinary people raise pigs and livestock on their porches, but high-ranking officials and the wealthy own pet dogs, which stoked some resentment."
One defector said these clampdowns are usually enforced without great enthusiasm but seem to be more severe this time.