Who doesn’t love a good Valentine’s Day tale, especially one involving dog rescue? We celebrated several such “tails” this last week, all tied to our global campaign to end the dog meat trade.

In the first instance, Humane Society International responders deployed to a dog farm in Hongseong County, 90 miles south of Seoul, South Korea, rescuing 200 dogs and puppies from squalor and neglect. Many of the animals were starving and emaciated, with matted fur, and some were suffering from untreated injuries and conditions. Our rescuers encountered a veritable United Nations of canine species at the farm, including chihuahuas, corgis, poodles, Pomeranians, Yorkshire terriers, French bulldogs, huskies and Shi Tzus. Now, they’re safe, and soon, they’ll be on their way to better things—and better lives.

This is the 14th dog meat farm we’ve closed since 2015, as part of an intervention strategy that works with farmers to find new occupations in exchange for a commitment never to farm dogs for food again. But this one embodied the pernicious connection between the dog meat trade and the puppy mill industry, both of which the farmer supplied with animals.

Here’s a brief account of conditions at the site from Senior Director of HSI Companion Animals and Engagement, Kelly O’Meara:

“Today was bitter cold in South Korea, and to look at the dogs shivering in their metal cages was a bit unbearable. It makes us all eager to get this rescue completed as soon as possible. We have piled straw into the cages in an effort to give the dogs some comfort and they are grateful, with wagging tails and playful response.

Most of the dogs on this farm are so desperate for attention of any kind. They bark and dance around their cages to be noticed and every member of the rescue team takes time to give them a gentle pet and some kind words. Their world is so lacking now, with cold metal bars surrounding them and frozen water in their metal bowls, I can only imagine how they struggle every minute of the day to just stay alive. I know they can’t understand it, but I keep reminding them that they will be in a good place soon, warm, comfy and with well-fed bellies.”

The news from South Korea was good, but there was still more good news from India this week. There, another HSI team celebrated Valentine’s Day by offering a dozen dogs for adoption into loving homes, each and every one of them a survivor of India’s meat trade. When HSI India took custody of the dogs in June 2018, they found them packed in gunny bags with their mouths mostly stitched up or tied to prevent them from making noise, and many starving and dehydrated. In India, dogs for the meat trade are generally stolen from the streets or from people’s homes. After a lengthy court battle with the dog meat sellers’ association, the first court case of its kind in India, HSI received complete custody of the dogs. After medical treatment and recovery, and spaying and neutering, these dogs have blossomed, as my colleague Alokparna Sengupta says, “into happy trusting dogs,” ready for adoption.

Whatever you did for Valentine’s Day, I hope it was a happy one for you. I’m glad I could report on the ways in which my colleagues made it a great one for animals in need. The transition of these dogs to lives where love will be the norm is really something to celebrate.