An animal protection group said it rescued seven dogs from a restaurant in northeast China this week that were destined for the table.

The mercy mission was staged on Tuesday, when volunteers from the VShine Animal Protection Association and urban management officers went to the restaurant in Dalian, Liaoning province, after receiving a tip-off from residents, Humane Society International said in a statement.

The seven dogs - a mix of German shepherds, golden retrievers and a Rottweiler - were set free and the owner of the eatery said he would stop killing dogs and serving them up to diners.

All of the dogs will be put up for adoption once they have been given the all clear by the vet. Photo / VShine
All of the dogs will be put up for adoption once they have been given the all clear by the vet. Photo / VShine

When members of the group were alerted to the dogs' plight they contacted the local government for support and the rescue mission was planned.

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All of the dogs were found to be suffering some form of injury or illness, VShine was cited as saying.

One of them was said to be wearing a collar, suggesting it was probably once someone's pet.

Once they had been seen by a vet and had time to get better the dogs would be put up for adoption, the statement said.

Although there are no laws in China prohibiting the consumption of dog meat - or preventing cruelty to animals - there have been growing calls for it to be stopped.

Animal rights groups often have to rely on food safety laws to prevent the sale of dog meat.

"If China introduced a robust animal cruelty law, we could eradicate the trade very quickly," Peter Li, a China policy expert with Humane Society International, was quoted as saying.

- South China Morning Post