12/04/2017 10:09 AM AEST | Updated 12/04/2017 1:30 PM AEST

Taiwan Makes Slaughtering Cats And Dogs For Consumption Illegal

Dogs and cats are still popular menu items in China, Vietnam and Korea.

blanscape via Getty Images
Dogs and cats used to be popular cuisine in Taiwan, but now they're beloved family members.

Taiwan has banned the consumption of cat and dog meat on Tuesday, in a move that has been hailed as the first of its kind in Asia.

The island nation banned the sale of dog and cat meat and fur back in 2001, but the penalties have been doubled and it is now also illegal to slaughter the animals for the purpose of consumption, eat the meat or be caught in possession of it.

Taiwan also cracked down on animal cruelty in its amended Animal Protection Act.

People who deliberately harm animals resulting in mangled limbs, damaged organs or death will face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to NT$2 million (AU$87,000) -- the same penalties faced by those caught eating dog or cat meat.

It will also be illegal to pull your dog or cat along on a lead while driving in a car or riding a motorbike.

Dog and cat meat used to be a popular cuisine in Taiwan, but recent decades have seen the animals become beloved household pets. In 2009, there were 1.5 million dogs in family homes in the country, which has a population of around 23 million.

The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, adopted three retired guide dogs last year to live alongside her two cats, Cookie and A-Tsai, according to BBC News.

The amended legislation needs to be signed into law by the Cabinet and Presidential Office, which is expected to take place by the end of the month.

In other parts of Asia -- including China, Korea and Vietnam -- dog and cat meat is still commonplace on many restaurant menus and is available in markets and stores. China has come under fire from Hollywood celebraties in recent years for its controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival, which is celebrated each June. During the festival, dogs are displayed in cages, slaughtered on the street and eaten in 'dog hot pots'.