This week, 171 dogs raised for the butcher block in Wonju, South Korea, have received a stay of execution and have been flown into the United States. We worked with the farmer in February to permanently shut down his farm and rescue all 250 dogs on the property. So they’ve left their cages and squalor, and have now found their way to the United States. Here, they’ll go to shelters and rescues that are part of the HSUS Emergency Placement Partner program, and will be placed for adoption. A sharper turnaround in their fortunes would be hard to find.
That’s because these dogs are getting out just in time: in 11 weeks, South Korea will celebrate summer, with some segment of its people consuming large quantities of dog meat stew. It’s a time when farmers slaughter hundreds of thousands of dogs, and an estimated 60 to 80 percent of the entire year’s dog meat is eaten in just two months. Most of that consumption occurs at South Korea’s hundreds of dog meat restaurants.
The farm in Wonju is the fifth dog meat operation we have closed down in South Korea. In February and March, we flew in 79 dogs from the farm and many of them have already been placed in loving homes. In South Korea, not only were their futures bleak, but their lives on the farm were miserable too: they lived in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety in cold, raised, metal cages with no cover from bitingly cold temperatures that could drop below freezing. Many of the rescued animals were puppies. Underneath their cages, piles of feces had accumulated for months.
The dogs we have rescued so far belong to many different breeds: there are Jindo mixes, huskies, golden retrievers, mastiff mixes, and some small breeds, like beagles, Chihuahuas, and maltese mixes. In the United States, we have seen long lines at some of our partner shelters as people have greeted the dogs with great enthusiasm and open arms. Many people have ended up adopting local dogs as well, showing us that the attention that these dogs bring to shelters lifts all boats, boosting the chances of other homeless animals. At one of our Emergency Placement Partners, all of the dogs at the shelter, including the Korean rescues, were adopted out within two weeks.
Even more important, we expect that these rescued Korean dogs now leading happy lives in American homes will serve as ambassadors of hope for the hundreds of thousands of dogs living lives of terror in thousands of dog meat farms in South Korea. Right now, says Humane Society International’s Kelly O’Meara, when people in Korea adopt dogs, they are usually small in size and obtained from breeders. There are no real options to adopt out the meat farm dogs in Korea. “There is a misconception about what kinds of dogs are on the dog farms,” says Kelly. “By bringing these dogs here to the United States, we’ve been able to share their adoption stories and show the Korean public that they are no different from other dogs whom people share their homes with in Korea.”
We are also working to convince the South Korean government to make a commitment to phasing out dog farming and banning dog eating, as the eyes of the world turn to the Winter Olympics coming up in Pyeongchang in 2018. The global focus on South Korea gives us an opportunity to persuade the country’s leadership to rid this boil of an industry from its landscape.
Meanwhile, we’re shepherding 120 of the new arrivals to a temporary emergency shelter set up in partnership with St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey. The remaining dogs will be transported nationwide to Emergency Placement Partner shelters, as well as to foster families in Ottawa, Canada.
It’s an emotional, crushing industry to contemplate. But we’re starting the process of unwinding it, and the second chance given to these innocent creatures is a cause for celebration.