A total of 17 Vietnamese workers from Taichung, in the center of Taiwan, were arrested by police and animal protection officers on Thursday evening on suspicion of killing and eating dogs.

Three puppies were found alive in the city’s water treatment plant where they worked.

Acting on a citizen’s tip-off, police and animal protection officers raided a water treatment plant in Taichung’s Fongyuan District, where 17 Vietnamese workers were eating dog meat stew at their dormitory, the Taiwan Apple Daily News reported.

Officers found a black plastic bag that contained the head and internal organs of a dog. Several trays of meat stew, which was presumably the meat of the slaughtered dog, were lying in the kitchen in plain sight.

Three other dogs on leashes in the dormitory were rescued, as police assumed they were strays captured by the Vietnamese workers to be slaughtered for food.

None admitted killing the dog or consuming its meat until a test showed one of the workers, surnamed Nguyen, 36, had dog’s blood under her fingernails.

The female suspect then identified a male worker surnamed Giap, 52, as the killer, who had used a cleaver to cut the dog’s throat, then butchered the carcass.

Under the Animal Protection Act, offenders killing dogs or cats could face up to two years in prison, with a maximum fine of NT$2 million (US$64,504), while those eating dog or cat meat can be fined up to NT$250,000 (US$8,068).