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To the rescue

Survivor of the dog meat trade finds a family in the United States

All Animals magazine, July/August 2017

by Emily Smith

Lola Webber of Humane Society International gives Bonnie a smooch before she flies to her new life in the United States. Photo by Jean Chung/For HSI.

Bonnie was one of the lucky ones. Although her small outdoor pen was littered with debris and sharp objects, she had sunshine and relatively fresh air—bare necessities that most of the other 54 dogs awaiting slaughter at a meat farm in Goyang, South Korea, lived without.

Those dogs were crammed into a windowless shed a few feet away from Bonnie’s pen, breathing air thick with waste fumes. A tiny door served as the only opening to the labyrinth of cages hidden inside. “You had the sense of suffocating because fresh air was so limited or simply nonexistent,” says Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International.

But thanks to HSI, The HSUS and the support of donors, all 55 dogs were about to get their moment in the sun.

In late March, Bonnie and the rest of the dogs flew halfway around the world to the United States after the farm’s owners agreed to permanently retire from the dog meat trade. The agreement marks the seventh farm since 2015 that HSI has helped close or transition to a humane alternative, such as growing blueberries or rice, bringing the total number of dogs rescued up to 825.

In the U.S., the dogs were greeted with fanfare from the media, rescue groups and potential adopters eager to welcome them as members of the family. Hours after several of the dogs—including Bonnie— arrived at the Animal Welfare League of Queen Anne’s County in Maryland, the phones began ringing “about every 30 seconds,” laughs shelter manager Kirstyn Northrop Cobb. “The community really wants to meet these dogs.”

It’s a different story in South Korea and in other parts of the world, where many consider the dogs on meat farms to be somehow different from household pets. But as more stories of the dogs like Bonnie finding homes in America make news worldwide, that misperception is changing.

“There hasn’t been a lot of empathy for these animals because of the underlying mistruth about them—that these dogs are wild—and we’ve been able to show that’s not the case,” O’Meara says. “When it’s 825 dogs later, you have a different feeling about these animals.”

‘JUST LIKE ANY OTHER DOG’:

If there’s a difference between pet dogs and those who have known nothing but the harsh world of a meat farm, it’s created solely by the treatment the animals have experienced. But the dogs adapt quickly: When Bonnie arrived at the shelter in Maryland, she finally got to learn how to be a dog. The staff exposed her to toys, grass and different scents—all of which she seemed to enjoy.

“Her whole demeanor was ‘I’m so excited about this, but I don’t really know what to do about it,’ ” Northrop Cobb says. Bonnie’s slightly awkward enthusiasm told 11-year-old Rachel Crump that she’d found the one. “She came out of her cage and plopped right in my lap, and she had this goofy personality,” Rachel says.

Her mom had her eye on a smaller dog, but Rachel pled her case for an entire week, and Vicki Crump agreed to visit Bonnie one more time. “It was all over from there,” Vicki says. “She stole my heart, too.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: You make stories like Bonnie’s possible! Please support the campaign to end the dog meat trade and our other lifesaving work.

To help her new companion settle in at home, Rachel slept overnight in a sleeping bag by Bonnie’s crate on the floor, then gradually moved to the couch as the dog got more comfortable. Today, Bonnie loves romping around with her big orange Nerf ball and snuggling on the couch to watch TV with the family (Dancing With The Stars and The Middle seem to be the pup’s favorite shows, Rachel says).

To see her in her new home, you’d never guess her origins—she’s friendly, outgoing and gentle, Vicki says. “Really, she’s just like any other dog.”

Before her rescue, Bonnie lived in unsafe conditions and was awaiting a cruel fate. Photo by Jean Chung/For HSI.

DRIVING CHANGE:

The stories of Bonnie and the other dogs are bringing a once taboo topic into worldwide conversation. Younger generations are turning away from eating dog meat, and public opinion has driven down overall consumption.

Children of dog meat farmers are pressuring their parents to abandon their operations, and some farmers are reaching out to HSI on their own to ask for help transitioning to another business. And reports in May indicated that the government in Yulin, China—under pressure from HSI and other advocates— planned to ban dog meat sales at its summer festival this year.

As HSI extends its reach into Indonesia and Vietnam, it also hopes to focus international attention on the issue in Korea leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. HSI rescuer Adam Parascandola and his team will close a large dog meat farm in July, transporting more than 100 dogs to safety, and they plan to shut down another farm in December—just as the Olympics hype begins to build.

“There’s a lot of work to do, but you can feel the momentum building,” Parascandola says. “We’re not giving up.”

Bonnie, and thousands of dogs like her, are counting on it.


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