An Inside Look: Shutting Down the Dangjin Dog Meat Farm
On September 1, 2018, Free Korean Dogs officially took possession of a dog meat farm operation in Dangjin, Korea and rescued 69 dogs from slaughter. The journey has simultaneously been an uphill battle and a rollercoaster ride, although we continue to soldier forward without looking back.
Our journey began when EK Park, founder of Free Korean Dogs, stumbled upon a hidden dog meat farm when visiting her mom in the Korean countryside. The scene, although heart wrenching, was nothing unfamiliar through her years of advocacy to free dogs from the meat trade, but the fact this was happening right in her (former) backyard compelled her to liberate the dogs from their tragic fate. With a promise to the dogs she would come back for them, so began FKD’s mission to shut down the dog meat farm for good.
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Negotiations began in June 2018 to come to the terms of surrendering the dogs into our care. Legal documents were subsequently drafted and signed, with a binding contract prohibiting the farm owner’s return to the industry, and implementing limitations on future dog ownership.
After what felt like eternity, Free Korean Dogs finally took possession of the farm on September 1st, 2018. The day of liberation began with emptying cages for all 69 dogs and ended in the most satisfying scene of all; as EK and her team of volunteers stood by and watched as bulldozers destroyed the farm. What had been a hellish prison for so many dogs was now reduced to scraps and made a distant memory.
With the dogs safe and the farm destroyed, it would seem our mission was accomplished. But in reality, the hard work had just begun. Dog meat farms are often unsanitary and poorly maintained. Dogs are kept in cramped, rusted cages and deprived of food and water. For the Dangjin dogs, food wastes were only given every few days and fresh water was scarce. The poor treatment of the dogs inevitably left them with numerous health issues ranging from eye and ear infections, mange, open wounds, heartworms, and tumors.
Our Promise and Commitment to the Dogs
Medical treatment remained the first priority, and dogs with the most urgent conditions were sent for immediate care. From there began the process of transporting dogs to a temporary shelter we had specially built for the dogs. The dogs would remain there until they were transported to various partner shelters who agreed to provide boarding for our rescues.
Although it came at no surprise to us, it was certainly disappointing to find out the extent of medical treatments needed for the dogs. Heartworm treatments seemed minor compared to the chemotherapy and surgery needed for some. Regardless, we made a commitment to these dogs and are dedicated to providing everything we can for them.
We’ve accepted that not all dogs would be “adoptable” due to severe medical issues or underlying anxiety and aggression towards humans. Nonetheless, we’ve refused to give up. Our “no dog left behind” mandate was not limited to medical care, but ensuring our dogs would have the best possible chance at living a happy life. Those with behavior issues were sent to training facility in hopes of rehabilitation. Should their traumas be deemed irreversible, we are committed to providing a life of sanctuary where they will remain safe and cared for. We’ve taken a staunch decision against euthanasia unless medical issues greatly compromise quality of life.
What many people might not know is that the shelters in Korea are mostly outdoors. They are a “bare bones” structure of chain link kennels built on an open field. Plastic sheets cover the chain links in hopes of blocking out the wind and rain, but dogs otherwise live in outdoor conditions and endure all the elements of the season in both summer and winter months. Some smaller dogs are lucky enough to be housed in indoor shelters and boarding houses. However, larger breeds such as the Jindo and Dosa Mastiff, who are commonly found in dog meat farms are almost always at the short end of the stick due to a lack of space, unless they are awaiting a flight to Canada in the near future or lucky enough to be placed into foster care.
As such, we have been committed to providing dog sweaters, blankets, and heating coals to help alleviate conditions for not only our own rescues, but all dogs in our partner shelters as well. The conditions are not a reflection of the level of care from the shelters, but rather the reality of the lack of interest and subsequent funding of shelter dogs in Korea.
Be Part of the Effort!
To date, 31 of our Dangjin rescue dogs have found their forever homes in Canada with loving families. Nothing has been more satisfying than to see our dogs live out their lives in happiness, security, and freedom. But our journey is far from over. 51 dogs remain in Korea, still undergoing medical treatment, training, and socialization. To date, we have invested in over $90,000 to support the medical, training, and housing needs of the dogs. 69 rescued dogs became 82 when a few of the pregnant dogs gave birth to litters. Food, vet care, and boarding costs amount to $7,500 per month.
We hope to raise $20,000 to continue to provide the needs for our rescues so they can one day find their forever homes in Canada.
Dangjin rescues’ new lives in Canada
In today’s digital world we are constantly bombarded by news of tragedy, disaster, and unfortunate events. It can be easy to succumb to feelings of being lost and hopeless in helping a cause. But you don’t need to wear a cape or have super human powers to make a difference. You can most certainly be a hero to these dogs. No contribution is too small, whether it be helping with ongoing costs, adopting a Korean rescue, or simply sharing our mission and content. Little by little, we will make big changes for lives of many dogs.