A TAUNTON woman is frantically raising funds to rescue hundreds of sick dogs saved from the dinner plate in China.

Cindi McNeilregan, who runs Rushton Dog Rescue near the town, was shocked by the appalling conditions when she recently visited several cash-strapped dog shelters in the Chinese city of Chengdu.

One had 400 animals saved over the years waiting to be moved to clinics and kennels.

They had been freed from trucks transporting them to be slaughtered for meat for human consumption or rescued from the street after being maltreated.

Ms McNeilregan is running a £10,000 online appeal to bring 100 pooches to the UK for adoption.

She started the charity to operate in Europe, but later branched out to China, where 10 million dogs are slaughtered annually for their meat.

"The meat trade in China has been on my mind since I was a child," said Ms McNeilregan.

"As I became more experienced with dog rescues, I got involved in China.

"No animal's safe there - there are no laws to protect them. If you set fire to a dog in the street you'll only be arrested for breach of the peace.

"We have a dog in Taunton that was badly beaten in a bag for 'fun'. He had a fractured skull, but fortunately has made a full recovery.

"We have another that was strangled by wire and nearly decapitated.

"In China they boil dogs alive, blow torch them alive, before eating them."

Ms McNeilregan's daughter, Zoe, has joined Chinese activists intercepting meat trade trucks illegally transporting dogs. They recently rescued 500 dogs and rehomed them in shelters.

"Over a couple of years, we've rehomed more than 100 dogs from China to homes in the UK," said Ms McNeilragen, "golden retrievers, labradors - dogs you have on your sofa. People's pets are being stolen in China for food.

"Once we rescue a dog, there's lots of paperwork, a long time in quarantine. It needs money, time and patience.

"We need people to sign petitions and speak out to put pressure on the Chinese government.

"The barbaric meat trade in China might not finish in my life time, but I want to know I've done something to help stop it.

"We're trying to set up communities in China, to offer education, improve shelters and help people understand how to keep pets safe.

"Not everyone's the same though. There are lots of brave activists in jail for simply speaking out against the country's lack of laws to protect dogs."

To support Ms McNeilregan's appeal to move dogs from shelters to vet clinics and boarding kennels and bring some to the UK click here.