In an industrial like building there are rows upon rows of kennels and the sounds of loud barking echoing through. As you walk down each aisle, scurrying little feet follow you along, begging for pets and starving for attention. These are the residents of the Yangpyung Pound – a high kill city shelter.
The Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs estimates about 70,000 dogs are abandoned at shelters each year. 25% of them are euthanized if unclaimed or un-adopted. However, the reality of the numbers are expected to be much higher, as record keeping is poor and inconsistent. It should also be noted the number of overall abandoned dogs stands to be much greater, as the practice of abandoning dogs by dumping them on the streets or selling them to the meat trade is common. While the exact estimate is unknown, it is safe to say the reported numbers are grossly underrepresented.
Over 20% of Koreans own dogs as a companion animal, but the legal and social views on dog ownership are still vastly different from ours here in the West. While pet overpopulation and overrun shelters are issues faced in even dog loving countries, the issue is at a much larger scale in countries like Korea. Reasons for abandoning dogs come from a long list – including growing bored after the initial excitement of having a dog, growing out of the puppy phase or becoming too big, unwillingness to deal with shedding, “behavioral” issues such as barking, cost of daily care, and vet bills.
Many dogs do not survive the 10-day period in a high kill shelter, as the overwhelming demand for space forces them to euthanize dogs who are unclaimed or unadopted. Shelter dogs do not have long life expectancies even in no-kill shelters as the quality of life, including socialization and access to quality food, are inadequate due to lack of funds and resources. The majority of shelters rely on outdoor enclosures and do not have heating in the winter or cooling systems in the summer.
A Life is a Life
Free Korean Dogs has recently been lucky enough to save a few dogs from the Yangpyung Pound. Our newest rescues include a dog who just gave birth, a maltese who was attacked by other dogs in the shelter, and a poodle with heartworms and severe skin conditions. While we feel extremely fortunate to be in a position to rescue these deserving souls, the rescue is bittersweet. There are so many dogs left in the shelter needing help.
The world of rescue is extraordinarily fulfilling, but simultaneously disheartening. There is nothing that justifies choosing to save one life over the other, and essentially deciding who will live and who will not. Do we save the senior dog because he has suffered long enough, or the young puppy because he has his whole life ahead of him? There is no correct answer; we believe a life is a life and every one is worth saving.
With over 40 dogs remaining at the Yangpyong Pound and our partner shelters at capacity, we have asked the shelter manager to “hold” all the dogs until we are ready to come back to save them. We will continue to fight for their right to live, but are also dealing with bureaucratic red tape and limited resources. It has been a reminder that dogs don’t get to choose their fate, and that we must be their voice and advocates.
What can you do to help?
- If you are looking to expand your family, consider adoption. Adopting a dog doesn’t mean just saving one life; When you adopt a dog you are giving another dog the chance to be triaged into a rescue program and a opportunity to find a home of their own.
- Consider becoming a flight volunteer if you are travelling from Seoul to Toronto, Vancouver, or Seattle. There is no cost to you. Our team will take care of all fees, paperwork, and guide you every step of the way. Not only will you be bringing a dog to their forever home, you are helping us make space for more dogs in need.
- Make a donation. Every little bit counts! No amount is too small. Tax receipts are eligible for donations over $20 for Canadian residents.
- Fundraise for us. Start a Facebook fundraiser, or organize a fundraising initiative through your business, wedding, birthday, or other event. Contact us for more information.
- Share our posts and stories to inspire more people to get involved! Find us here on our blog, Facebook, or Instagram.
Written by Sara Liao, Board of Director & Adoption Manager