A group of 171 dogs saved from South Korea’s brutal dog meat trade are starting their search for loving homes in the United States and Canada. Humane Society International rescued the dogs as part of its campaign to end the dog meat trade, and flew them to the U.S. Here, its affiliate the Humane Society of the United States will help provide assessments, veterinary care and rehabilitation at its emergency shelter before placing them with Shelter and Rescue Partners. A portion of the dogs will be transported to HSI/Canada’s temporary shelter, where they will eventually be available for adoption.
“No matter how many dogs we rescue from this brutal trade, it never gets easier to stomach the harsh, terrifying conditions we find the survivors enduring,” said Kitty Block, CEO of Humane Society International and president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “On the most recent dog farm rescue that HSI worked on, the scene that greeted our team was particularly sobering because slaughter had been conducted on-site at this farm. Because of the tireless work of our staff and our partner groups in Korea, these dogs are one step closer to a new beginning as cherished family members.”
The dogs arriving in the United States have all escaped certain death from the meat trade. They were among more than 300 dogs saved from several dilapidated meat farms in Gimpo, Haemi and Yongin by the teamwork of Humane Society International and its Korean animal protection group partners. The dogs were locked in barren metal cages without water or proper food, living in squalid conditions. On one of the farms, many of the dogs were suffering from severe malnutrition as well as painful skin diseases, and were found huddled next to the lifeless bodies of their dead cage mates who had apparently starved to death. On another farm, the dogs had been abandoned and risked being euthanized after the farmers running the facility had moved away following a demolition order by local officials. HSI/Korea worked with LIFE, KoreanK9Rescue and Yongin Animal Care Association on several of these rescues, after which the farms were permanently closed down and the structures demolished. Following their rescue, the dogs have been cared for in South Korea while transport arrangements were made.
While dog meat is eaten by some in several countries in Asia, South Korea is the only country that intensively farms dogs for human consumption on a large scale. An estimated 2 million dogs a year are reared on thousands of dog meat farms across the country. The conditions on these farms are horrific—most dogs live their entire lives in barren wire cages without adequate shelter or veterinary care until they are brutally slaughtered, usually by electrocution or hanging.
HSI’s pioneering program works with Korean dog farmers who want to leave the trade. HSI rescues their dogs and helps the farmer transition to more humane and profitable livelihoods. The farmers sign a 20-year contract, stipulating they will not breed dogs or any animals, and the cages are demolished to ensure that no animals will suffer on the property in future.
All the farm closures were conducted under COVID-19 health and safety restrictions. At each dog meat farm rescue, a veterinarian tests for the presence of the H3N2 virus (“canine influenza”), and the dogs receive vaccines for rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, parainfluenza, canine coronavirus and Leptospira. HSI then quarantines the dogs in Korea for at least 30 days. The dogs are given another examination before their flight to ensure they are healthy enough to fly, in accordance with international export and import requirements. Kelly Donithan, HSI’s global director of disaster response and rescue, accompanied the dogs on their Qatar Airways flight from Seoul, and broadcast live on Facebook during their journey.
So far, HSI has saved more than 2,000 dogs from Korean dog meat farms. The dogs are brought to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom for adoption. Our shelter partners often report increased public interest in dog adoption overall from the publicity they receive about the Korean dog meat trade survivors, meaning more dogs finding loving homes. While pet ownership is on the rise in South Korea, adopting instead of buying a dog is still not a widespread practice.