Last week we announced our endeavor in attempting to secure the safety and release of 15 dogs being kept for meat at a restaurant in Yongin, Korea. Today, it is with great relief we announce that after a tense and nerve-wracking week of negotiations, we were successfully able to acquire custody of all 15 dogs on the property.
Not Your Average Restaurant
The restaurant, located in a small village approximately 40 minutes outside of Seoul, focuses its fare on traditional heavily meat based and spiced stews. However, it also had a secret ingredient menu – dog meat soup. With a few dilapidated but functional metal cages strategically hidden away behind the main building, numerous dogs were held and raised for their “special” menu item. When a patron orders dog meat soup, a dog is individually selected, tortured (under a misguided belief the adrenaline released from the act of torture would maximize taste, nutritional, and/or healing properties), and slaughtered on site as freshly prepared soup. It had become a not so well-kept secret in the community, and when our team went to investigate the allegations, our fears were confirmed after discovering 17 dogs on site.
The dogs were housed in rusted cages commonly used for meat farm operations and living in typical conditions for dogs being raised for meat. With several dogs in each cage, they had minimal room to move around. The mesh wire lining the bottom of the cage ensured urine and feces could fall through, but made it nearly impossible for the dogs to stand on without putting painful pressure on their paw pads. Propped up on the wall of the main building was a propane blow torch, a seemingly common tool for country living needs, but the greatest nightmare for anyone familiar with the meat trade. As a means of torture, dogs are commonly burned or boiled alive.
The Man in the Red Apron
Upon discovery of this living horror, our team attempted to negotiate the release of dogs to no avail. The owner did eventually agree to allow us to “purchase” one of the small puppies who was being trampled by the larger dogs in the cage as a result of their insufficient living space, but we knew it would not break the cycle of abuse these and other dogs would be subject to. We eventually enlisted the help of city officials and peace officers, under the grounds of an existing but often unenforced law which prohibited the act of “killing dogs in public areas”. However, after an attestation from the restaurant owner he was not breaking any laws despite having the dogs on his property, as well as testimonies from local villagers, officials and law enforcement determined there was no evidence and dropped the case.
By this time, one of the dogs on the property had disappeared. The reason remains unknown, but the unimaginable can be assumed. Following the incident that felt like rubbing salt on our wounds when it seemed the mission was futile, we received a tip informing us some parts of the restaurant building were in fact illegally built, and more importantly, on the day dog meat soup is prepared and a dog subsequently slaughtered, the restaurant owner dons a red apron.
The victories in the world of animal rescue are often triumphant and inspiring, but we often forget the means required to get there are simultaneously horrific and traumatic, to say the least. Armed with the valuable information, we set out to gather evidence of the crimes, and after a tense few days succeeded in capturing a video of the restaurant owner butchering a dog for meat. While we remain drowned in guilt and regret we could not save the poor soul, we have become ever more determined to do everything in our power to save as many dogs as possible from similar, horrendous fates.
15 Remaining Dogs Secured
With the evidence in hand, the restaurant owner formally agreed to release the remaining 15 dogs into our care. Legal proceedings are ongoing, but will include legal charges of animal abuse and a prohibition on selling dog meat products, ownership of dogs, and possession of dogs on the property. The cages on the property will be demolished and destroyed.
Our colleagues and volunteers have been on location daily, cleaning up the cages, lining the bottom mesh so the dogs can comfortably stand, and providing food and water. A second dog (the assumed mother of the rescued puppy) has since been removed as she was not eating.
Over the weekend, our team of colleagues and volunteers will officially transport the remaining 14 dogs to the safety of a partner shelter who has been prepared for intake. All dogs will receive their initial health checks, spay and neuter, and necessary treatments which commonly include deworming, skin issues, and heartworm treatment. While receiving medical care, they will be given time to heal, both physically and emotionally, decompress, and socialize with other dogs (after a quarantine period).
We have estimated the basic medical costs of health checks and spay/neuter to amount to approximately $7500 (Cdn), although the figure could increase significantly when dealing with other issues such as heartworm. Standing behind our “no dog left behind” credo, we will remain committed to support any degree of medical or behavioral issue(s) that may arise.
While the journey unfolds for these dogs, we continue to lay the bricks to pave the way for their new lives and the ultimate goal of eventually finding their forever homes. For now, join us as we slowly learn get to know more about each of them in the coming weeks.
Written by Sara Liao, Board of Directors & Adoption Manager