Nearly 200 Dogs Rescued from Dog Meat Farms

They included golden retrievers, a poodle, terriers, and a Labrador retriever.

Nara Kim holds Baker at a dog meat farm in Haemi, South Korea.
Nara Kim cuddles Baker at a dog meat farm in Haemi, South Korea.

Jean Chung/For HSI

Some 196 dogs have been saved from South Korea's dog meat trade after a rescue mission by Humane Society International (HSI). They arrived in the U.S. late last week and are now decompressing as HSI starts the search for the dogs' new homes.

Most of the dogs, which include golden retrievers, a poodle, Korean jindos and mastiffs, Pomeranians, terriers, and a Labrador retriever, were taken from a single dog meat farm in Haemi. The dog meat farm was closed down by HSI in partnership with the farmer.

Adam Parascandola, Vice President of Global Animal Rescue and Response of HSI, holds a dog at a dog meat farm in Haemi, South Korea.
Adam Parascandola, Vice President of Global Animal Rescue and Response of HSI, comforts a dog at the farm in Haemi.

Jean Chung/For HSI

About 50 of the dogs went directly to HSI shelter and rescue partners. The majority are in a temporary shelter in Maryland run by HSI and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They are now being examined by veterinarians and those with medical needs are starting treatment. Most of the dogs had to be carried to the exam area because they didn't know how to act on a leash. Some of the largest dogs needed three people in order to safely carry them for their exams.

According to HSUS, the dogs are settling in and many are starting to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. While some are still reserved, others are coming right up to their kennel doors for attention from rescuers.

John Moyer sits with a dog during "calm social" time at the Maryland temporary shelter.
John Moyer sits with a dog during "calm social" time at the Maryland temporary shelter.

Meredith Lee/The HSUS

“Life in the dog meat trade is brutal, but these dogs are resilient and many are already beginning to show their unique personalities and even a desire for attention,” Jessica Johnson, senior director of animal rescue at the Humane Society of the United States, tells Treehugger “We are getting the dogs into a routine and giving them TLC and veterinary care until they are ready to be placed with shelter rescue partners to seek adoptive homes.”

Some dogs will be taken to a temporary shelter run by the Humane Society of Canada in Montreal. The rest of the dogs will move to shelters and rescue organizations over the next few weeks. Partner organizations include: SPCA Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio); Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue (Reinholds, Pennsylvania); Humane Society of Calvert County (Sunderland, Maryland); Homeward Trails Animal Rescue (Fairfax Station, Virginia); and Petey and Furends (Rockville, Maryland).

Laura Miller spends time with Alexa.
Laura Miller spends time with Alexa.

Meredith Lee/The HSUS

Of the 196 dogs, 170 were rescued by HSI from the single dog meat farm in Haemi. This is the 17th dog meat farm that HSI has closed down permanently.

The other 26 dogs were rescued by HSI in South Korea during previous operations but had not been able to leave their temporary shelter until now due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

Abbie Hubbard plays with Darryl at a dog meat farm in Haemi.
Abbie Hubbard plays with Darryl at a dog meat farm in Haemi.

Jean Chung/For HSI

Because of COVID-19 safety precautions, members of HSI's U.S. team had to quarantine for two weeks at a hotel in Seoul before heading to Haemi to rescue the dogs. Rescuers wore face coverings, maintained social distancing when they could, and had hand sanitizer stations set up during the mission.

The rescue coincides with the release of an opinion poll, conducted by Nielsen and commission by HSI/Korea, that shows growing support in South Korea for a ban on dog meat consumption. The poll found that 84% of the population say they don’t or won’t eat dog, and 59% support banning dog meat.

Kelly Donithan caresses a chained-up dog named Pam.
Kelly Donithan caresses a chained-up dog named Pam.

 Jean Chung/For HSI

“Although most people in South Korea don’t regularly eat dog meat, and support for a ban is growing, there remain thousands of farms of all sizes across the country where dogs of all breeds endure a harsh existence," Kelly O’Meara, HSI’s vice president of companion animal campaigns, said in a statement.

"With fewer people wanting to eat dog, farmers can see the writing is on the wall for this dying industry and so they work with HSI to find a solution that gives both them and their remaining dogs a chance of a new life. With such interest from dog farmers, and public support, we hope the Korean government will adopt this type of approach to phase out the dog meat industry for good.”