In our largest dog meat operation shutdown to date, we have successfully secured the safety and possession of 101 dogs from a dog meat farm in Siheung, Korea. While this is not our first shut down initiative – having shut down operations from dog meat farms, individual dog sellers, dog meat restaurants, and/or dog tonic shops – we wish we could say it gets easier, but the task always takes us on a rollercoaster of a ride.
We began investigating when we were tipped off about a dog meat farm operating in Siheung, a city about an hour away from Seoul, the country’s capital. While the majority of dog meat farms in Korea are located in the rural country area, this farm was situated a mere 10 minutes from the Siheung City Hall. Who would have thought a dog meat farm would be operating so close the city while residents turned a blind eye? From there, negotiations began for the dogs to be surrendered to our care and possession.
At the Negotiation Table
Thankfully, negotiations were a success. If they were not, we would not have secured the dogs. However, they not always are. Before we can reach a successful agreement, there are a number of elements that must be agreed upon:
- Compensation: At the end of the day, the dog meat farm is an operating business and the dogs are “products”. While it may not be something we personally agree with, it is in fact a norm for rescuers to have to “buy out” the dogs and provide compensation to the farmer for the dogs if they are to shut down permanently. An amount must be agreed upon.
- A legally binding, contractual agreement: This ensures the farmer does not restart operations to turn a profit once the dogs have been “purchased”. The terms of the contract state the farmer or his family will never return to the business of raising dogs for meat. It prohibits them from owning dogs for any purpose, including companionship. It relinquishes legal ownership of the dogs on the farm and allows us to destroy the cages and clear the property of any structure, tools, or equipment related to dog farming.
Like all negotiations, coming to an agreement is not always possible. The delicate nature of negotiations is the reason we are often tight lipped about our endeavors until we have finalized them. One would believe the publicity would create additional pressure for a farm owner to come to an agreement. However, in reality the opposite effect takes place, and growing public demands instead provides farm owners with stronger bargaining power to sway the agreement in their favor.
Our negotiations in this project took approximately 1 week to complete. Unfortunately, on the day the signing of the contract was to take place, the owner changed his mind and decided to demand more compensation than agreed upon. We were as a result forced to leverage the help of the police and city officials, bringing them to the attention of several laws the farm was in violation of, including illegal building structures, having a slaughterhouse that was not properly licensed, and improper disposal of animal waste.
Why did we not simply report the farm for its infractions and instead pursue a lengthy negotiation process? Reporting their illegal activities would have only led to a fine, at most. When shutting down a dog meat farm, we need to ensure the farm will be shut down for good, and take the proper measures they will not start up again in other forms.
Signed [contract], Sealed [the deal], and Delivered [dogs to safety]
After signing and finalizing contracts, it becomes imperative we move to transport the dogs to safety as soon as possible. This means during our planning stages we must ensure we are ready to mobilize without delay. This has been something we have learned from experience, as owners have quietly sold off dogs after our agreement to turn a quick, last minute profit. It is also the reason we need to ensure the total number of dogs on the farm are accounted for prior to finalizing the agreement. Without this crucial step, dogs can be hastily sold off to other merchants for financial gain before we are able to get to them.
The next day, our team and volunteers arrived on site to remove all the dogs on the property and transport them to safety. What we initially believed to be 95 dogs ended up to be 101, a surprise we couldn’t be happier with. Unlike previous rescue initiatives where we have had to split dogs between 3 of our partner shelters, all 101 dogs will be housed at our partner boarding house. In order to accommodate our new arrivals, additional fencing and kennels will be constructed. The rescues are currently under quarantine for 2 weeks, where they are isolated from the other residents. Soon, our team will return to the property once more to demolish the farm once and for all.
For Better or For Worse, In Sickness and In Health
Like all of our rescue missions, we will be following a “no dog left behind” approach. Once under our care, we will do everything in our power to help them heal and grow physically and emotionally. No dog is too sick, too temperamental, or too far gone. Whether medical or training needs, however complex, we are committed to stand by their needs.
After quarantine and given time to decompress, our dogs will undergo their medical exams to ensure there are no serious medical issues. Some are already evident, such as skin issues and malnutrition. For others, only a thorough exam complete with bloodwork will tell. They will also undergo their spay and neuter surgeries, and receive their vaccinations and any medical treatment needed. By this point, we will have a better understanding of their personalities, and will be able to determine which dogs might benefit from a professional training.
The Worst is Over, But the Journey Has Only Begun
In theory, shutting down a dog meat farm should follow a progression of stages. Rescue, rehabilitate, rehome, repeat. However, we sometimes don’t make it past stage 1. Some of our dogs rescued from the Dangjin dog meat farm in 2018 are still healing nearly 4 years later. We have resolved to know they may never be ready for international adoption and will spend their lives in “sanctuary” at the shelter. Others will open up and heal quicker, and make the trip to Canada and the US to start their new lives. It is too early to tell in this point in time which stage each dog is at, but for now we are enjoying seeing them discover their new found freedom and safety.
The Hard Work Starts Now
We say it over and over again, not for emphasis but because there is no greater truth – it takes a village to rescue a dog, and now we have 101 new rescues among over 80 existing rescues. Our team and volunteers have been working around the clock building new fencing, feeding the dogs, cleaning kennels, and more. Rescue work is often idealized, but it is far from glamorous. Rescue is a labor of love.
While we have been so fortunate to have the help of volunteers, we are still facing considerable financial expenses. How much does it all cost?
- Basic medical exam (bloodwork, vaccinations, parasite prevention, spay/neuter) – $500 CAD ~ $1,000 CAD per dog
- Supplies – $300 CAD per dog
- Ongoing flea/tick/heartworm prevention per month – $130 CAD per dog
- Food per month – $50 CAD per dog
- Boarding per month – $200 CAD per dog
- Training per month – $ 4,000 CAD (for the dogs who need the help of trainers)
Saving these dogs will not change the world, but surely for these dogs, the world would change forever. Will you be a part of that change?