Today, Canada welcomed 110 new residents who just took a trip around the world. The dogs, once headed for the butcher’s block at the Yulin dog meat festival in China, were flown last night into Toronto, just in time for the holidays, by Humane Society International/Canada. They are now one giant step closer to adoption into forever homes.
Getting the dogs out of China and into Canada required months of diligence and patience. We had to jump through more than a few bureaucratic hoops, doing our best to assure the humane treatment of the dogs even as we treated various health conditions that had beset them during their time in the meat trade.
The dogs’ journey to freedom began seven months ago when HSI representatives were on the ground in Yulin, in the run-up to the city’s barbaric annual dog meat festival. There, our team found dogs confined in cages so tightly they couldn’t move. Some were gasping for breath. Many had skin infections and open wounds. Severely emaciated and dehydrated, the dogs had likely been transported for days with no food or water. Some had been fitted with collars, indicating they may have been stolen pets.
Our team spent several days gathering evidence to expose the plight of the dogs in Yulin to the world. In the process, HSI team members and our local partners were able to help save 173 dogs and cats who were bound for the slaughterhouse. The animals were immediately transported to HSI-funded emergency shelters in northern China where they received veterinary care, food, water, love, and attention.
Some of the animals have already been placed in local homes. But while HSI is working with our partners to create a pet culture in China, adoption rates remain low. These 110 dogs would have likely faced a lifetime of confinement in shelters had HSI/Canada not stepped in.
China has never exported dogs in such numbers before, and the process of obtaining government approvals was daunting. Month after month we worked to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and to identify an airline able to handle such a large shipment.
This week, the government of China finally issued the export paperwork and Air Canada found space on one of its flights. But just when we thought the dogs were home free, northern China was hit by a smog storm that has made international headlines. Intrepid local activists drove through it all for more than 18 hours to get the dogs to the airport and onto the only remaining available flight. At 6:30 pm last night, the Yulin dogs arrived safe and sound at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
Today, these resilient dogs are receiving care at an HSI/Canada temporary shelter just outside Toronto, before traveling on to rescue groups and shelters in Ontario and Quebec. The wonderful Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary in King City, Ontario, is taking 63 of the dogs, 37 more will go to the Montreal SPCA, and 10 will be cared for by the Ottawa-based rescue group BARK.
None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of one of our most important Canadian supporters: the Eric S. Margolis Family Foundation. Without hesitation, the Margolis family provided the funds needed to fly these dogs from China to Canada so they could begin a new life.
These deserving dogs will now become ambassadors for the campaign to stop the global dog meat trade. Thirty million dogs fall victim to this barbaric trade each year, and up to 20 million of those are killed in China.
But there is hope. HSI is at the forefront of an international effort to shut down the dog meat trade for good, and we are making real progress. In recent years, the international pressure you have helped to create has reduced the killing at the Yulin dog meat festival by 80 percent. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., introduced a congressional resolution, H. Res. 752, cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 161 Representatives, strongly condemning the festival and dog meat trade. And there is more evidence that our campaign is working: a 2016 poll shows 70 percent of Chinese people holding an opinion are now in support of a national ban on the dog meat trade. Local government has started to listen, enforcing existing laws that can restrict the dog meat trade in several parts of China.
In just two weeks’ time, our work against the dog meat trade continues in South Korea as our Animal Rescue Team closes down yet another dog meat farm. More than 100 of the rescued dogs will be brought back to North America where rescues and shelters are waiting.
While the overall numbers are staggering, for every dog we deliver into a loving environment, it’s a 100 percent victory. It warms our hearts, just as I know it does yours.