Was an Atlanta Restaurant Closed for Serving Rats, Mice, Kittens, etc.?
Generally speaking, this legend takes the form of Asian restaurateurs serving dishes made from kidnapped pets and calling the 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 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.
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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: 07/18/06