Was an Atlanta Chinese Restaurant Closed for Serving Rats, Mice, Kittens, Puppies, etc.?
Second, while it's a fact that there are places in China where you can dine on anything imaginable, from dogs to rats to civet cats, the belief that such items are illicitly cooked and served in Chinese restaurants in the U.S. and other western countries is an urban legend, and a very old one at that, dating back 150 years by some estimates.
As the legend is traditionally told, some Asian restaurateurs supposedly cut food costs by serving dishes made from kidnapped pets and calling the featured meat "chicken" or "rabbit." A particularly relevant version cited by folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand in The Mexican Pet (W.W. Norton, 1986) refers to "bodies of small animals found in the Asians' freezers by police investigators" in Fairfax, Virginia an allegation which proved untrue when investigated by a local journalist.
With regard to the present accusations, I searched the archives of every major news outlet in Atlanta, Georgia (going back six months just to be sure), and found to no one's surprise, I hope not a single mention of a Chinese restaurant shut down in late 2004 or early 2005 (or since) for serving rats, kittens, puppies or any other illegal "food items."
2006 update: Demonstrating that truth can be at least as strange as fiction, one year after this email began circulating, the owner of a Peruvian restaurant on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia received a health department citation when a skinned guinea pig carcass was found in the walk-in freezer.
Scary fast food urban legends:
• Does McDonald's Use Worm Meat as Filler in Its Burgers?
• Does Taco Bell Use Meat Rated "Grade D - Not for Human Consumption"?
• Woman Finds Chicken Head in Box of McDonald's Wings
• Worker Puts HIV+ Blood in Ketchup Dispenser
• Cockroach Egg Tacos
• The McPus Sandwich
• Kentucky Fried Brain
Sources and further reading:
Wild Animal Markets in China May Be Breeding SARS
USA Today, 29 Ocotber 2003
Cats - Friend or Food?
Essay by Sarah Hartwell
Last updated: 05/18/14