The first group of 23 dogs rescued from a farm in South Korea jumped around and wagged their tails at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria on Tuesday, waiting to be bathed or fed.
Until they were rescued, the dogs — from a tiny Lhasa apso to an Alaskan husky — had lived outdoors in wire cages, said Megan Webb, the league’s executive director.
For about a year, Humane Society International has worked with farms in South Korea that raise dogs whose meat ultimately would be sold by other businesses. It is the first time a farmer has cooperated with the organization and agreed to relinquish the dogs, said Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International.
“Some of them are actually quite friendly, which is surprising,” O’Meara said.
Webb said the dogs had been more social and responsive to human interaction than was expected. “However, handling does scare most of these dogs,” she added. “Some of them scream when you pick them up.”
The farmer, Moon Suk Jung, signed an agreement to permanently shut down his farm, about 40 minutes outside of Seoul, and accepted $2,500 to help convert his property to a blueberry farm.
“Our objective is to have this be a permanent change in a cruel trade,” O’Meara said. “He is the first, and we’re hoping [he is] a model example for others to follow. Offering him some assistance — that was something we were happy to do.”
The rescue is part of Humane Society’s broader campaign to reduce the dog-meat trade across Asia. O’Meara said they also hope to raise public awareness in Korea, as few people even know about the dog-meat commerce.
Although people in some Asian countries consume dog meat, O’Meara said, South Korea’s practice of raising dogs for slaughter on a farm is unusual. She said the meat from an estimated 1.2 million to 2 million dogs consumed in Korea each year comes primarily from farms, as opposed to in other countries, where, she said, dogs are found on the street and taken directly to slaughterhouses.
The dogs will stay at the shelter in Alexandria until Friday, then some will be transferred to five Washington-area shelters: the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, Loudoun County Animal Services, the City of Manassas Animal Control and Adoption Center and the Washington Animal Rescue League.
Webb said the dogs will be watched for signs of illness until then. The dogs, which were vaccinated by the Humane Society in South Korea, will also be checked by veterinarians at the facility before they are put up for adoption.
“These guys are definitely not house-trained, so that’ll be a challenge,” Webb said. “It’s something that will need to be considered before taking these dogs on. They’re going to need some patience and rehabilitation.”
Webb said that because the dogs have lived in cages, some of them chained in isolation, they will have to learn how to run and play. The dogs have access to the outdoors from their kennels at the shelter and toys and blankets to sleep on inside.
Billy, a crooked-tooth Lhasa apso mix, was getting a haircut. An animal-care manager cut the long tresses growing over his eyes and checked for clumps of fur. As Billy was groomed and cleaned, he licked animal-care manager Deirdre Hyde.
Carrie Pergram, a volunteer at the shelter, said the dogs’ behavior shift has been obvious.
“In the last 12 hours since the animals arrived, just to see the dropping of fear. . . . They sense they’re in a better place,” she said. “Now they’re at the front of their cages, ready for what’s next.”