Most who follow the dog meat trade (abolishment)movement are familiar with the typical scene – rows upon rows of dogs in rusted metal cages surrounded by feces and other unrecognizable waste littered all around the area. In other cases, they are kept in display cages outside the restaurant they would ultimately be slaughtered at the hands of once a customer personally selects them to be the main ingredient of their next meal.
But not all dog meat operations are outwardly obvious. In a village in Paju, Korea, a number of dogs sit around a private, empty construction site. Some are chained, others are roaming within the fenced area. All are visibly thin and malnourished with dull, dirty, and flea ridden fur. They could be guard dogs who are kept outside to protect the property from trespassers. However, when every so often a dog disappears and a new one emerges, a different story comes to light.
It is not uncommon for people to raise dogs to sell to the meat trade as a side business. During Boknal, an infamous yearly tradition in which dog meat is consumed during the hottest days of summer under the misguided belief it will boost stamina, dog meat can often be a lucrative income, fetching high prices at the market. There is often little to no overhead costs to the “business”. Dogs can be captured as strays or obtained by other free means while fed only leftover food scraps and provided no physical protections or medical care. As such there are no expenses, only profits.
Negotiation and Rescue:
They had one of our Korean volunteers fooled, too. Believing them to be neglected guard dogs, the volunteer noticed the owner would not feed them, sometimes for days on end. When they were fed, they were given only scraps of human food consisting of bones, spoiled vegetables, or soon to be spoiled leftovers. Oftentimes during the winter, the food would freeze making it impossible for the dogs to eat. After the volunteer began bringing them meals on a daily basis, the dark reality of the dogs’ fate became obvious, and she reached out for help.
Their rescue took a number of weeks as. Despite negotiations, promises of providing a better life, and education on the concerns of consuming meat from dogs who are obviously sick with fleas and worms as well as debunking myths surrounding the alleged health benefits of dog meat consumption, the owner was staunchly set on his decision on keeping them. However, after much persistence from our rescuers he eventually relented, although he would only release a mother dog and her 6 babies. The rest of the dogs on property would remain with him. Although not the outcome we had hoped, we seized the opportunity to rescue the dogs we could.
And Then, There Were 4:
After readying ourselves with crates and transport volunteers to remove the dogs from the property, we found only the mother and 4 puppies. Despite a thorough search of the property, the remaining 2 puppies were nowhere to be found. The owner claimed he had no information. Whether they had escaped, were stolen or sold remains a mystery. Realizing time was of the essence, the dogs were promptly taken to safety and provided much needed medical care. For one of the puppies, the rescue sadly wasn’t soon enough and he was diagnosed with parvo during his medical examination. He succumbed to the illness shortly after, while his siblings and mother were isolated to ensure any infection was contained. Thankfully, all were parvo free and relatively healthy, although their mother unfortunately tested positive for heartworm and is currently undergoing treatment.
The Beginning of a New Start:
We are happy to report the dogs have completed their quarantine and initial medical exams to ensure they were healthy enough to join our partner boarding house, where they currently live with other dogs. The mother dog has begun her heartworm treatments while her puppies are discovering the comforts of full bellies, indoor warmth, and the joys of human interaction and playing with other dogs.
The sad reality of dog rescue is that, whether from high kill shelters or from the dog meat trade, we cannot save them all. It is a painful truth knowing many are left behind and we are powerless to their ordeal. However, this endeavor reminds us that not hope is lost. Much like our previous rescue operations, a community of like-minded, determined individuals exist who are and continue to be the driving force behind changing the world for dogs like our newest intake members. It may be a small step, but a step towards progress nonetheless.
Written by Sara Liao, Board of Director & Adoption Manager