The fortunate 34 dogs who arrived in the United States earlier this month have come quite a long way since our animal rescue responders first encountered them as victims of the dog meat industry in South Korea.

Back in July, I told you about 21 dogs, whose fate was uncertain after government authorities closed a dog meat farm that was operating illegally in Ansan city, Gyeonggi Province. Just days before the start of Bok Nal, which marks the hottest days of summer between July and August, when consuming dog meat is most popular, Humane Society International/Korea and partner organization Korean K9 Rescue took custody of these animals and placed them in care. The dogs were quarantined and received veterinary care, vaccinations and socialization.

In July, Humane Society International/Korea and Korean K9 Rescue stepped in to rescue dogs from an illegal dog meat farm in Ansan, South Korea.
Jean Chung for HSI

Now, 19 of them are at our animal care and rehabilitation center near Washington, D.C., where they are receiving additional care and social enrichment, on the next leg of their journey to loving homes. With them on their journey from Seoul were 15 dog meat industry survivors from other farms and dire situations who have also been given a chance to start a new life. Soon, very soon, they’ll be enjoying new lives with caring families, not just survivors of a trade that claims the lives of an estimated 1 million dogs annually in South Korea, but ambassadors for the proposition that no dog should die for that trade. I couldn’t be more thankful that we were in a position to help them. As for the two dogs from Ansan who remain in South Korea—Hazel and Lucy—they gave birth to puppies after their rescue, puppies who, thankfully, will never know the horrors of the meat trade. They’ll all fly to new futures once the pups are old enough.

Kevin Wolf/AP Images for HSI

Our approach to ending the dog meat industry in South Korea and elsewhere is cooperative, and we’ve helped to close and remove animals from 17 farms and rescued countless more in close concert with our animal protection partners in Korea and local government officials, and by helping farmers to transition to new livelihoods that don’t involve the suffering and slaughter of animals.

And we’re winning in the court of public opinion, also. A 2022 poll by Nielsen found that 85% of Koreans have either never consumed dog meat or have no intention to do so in the future, while 56% would support a government prohibition on the practice.

South Korea is not the only nation where the battle to end the dog meat trade is unfolding, and we’re active working with our partners in others, including Viet Nam, Indonesia and China, where a tragic incident involving a “death truck” occurred on Oct. 1 near Yulin. There, 370 of 1,408 dogs and cats crammed into a vehicle perished. The shocking footage of the scene is a searing reminder of the terror, misery and despair of the dog meat trade, and just how much more work lies ahead of us in our global campaign to end it.

That’s all the more reason to take comfort in what’s playing out in the lives of the newly arrived dogs. The comfortable setting of a rehabilitation center is a far cry from the barren confines of a cage on a dog meat farm, but it’s still early in the process of their amazing transformation from forgotten casualties of a brutal trade to the beneficiaries of the best that the human-animal bond can produce. I’m excited about our part in ensuring their path to safety and happiness. I hope you are too.