Dogs rescued from South Korean dog meat farms arrive in US for adoption

Nearly three dozen dogs arrived in the U.S. this week after being rescued from South Korean dog meat farms and will soon be ready for adoption, officials with Human Society said — calling on the government to outlaw the industry. 

The 34 dogs, with names like Romeo, Nuri, Daisy, Phoenix, and Brown Bear, arrived at the Washington Dulles International Airport after being rescued by Humane Society International/Korea and its partners. 

The dogs will be cared for at a rehabilitation center operated by the Humane Society of the United States, where they’ll receive "the love and comfort that the dog meat industry denied them, including beds, a nutritious diet, enrichment, and veterinary care," officials said in a statement.

Eventually, they’ll be transferred to the Human Society’s shelter and rescue partners in the U.S. for adoption into loving homes. Because the dogs arrived on the East Coast, the majority will be placed with shelters in the Northeast and Midwest, according to Lindsay Hamrick, director of shelter outreach and engagement at the Humane Society of the United States.

"Some dogs may be behaviorally and medically ready to be placed with partners and therefore, will be transferred within a few days while others may require a bit more time at our rehabilitation and care center," Hamrick told FOX Television Stations.

Hamrick noted how this group of dogs includes some breeds traditionally seen at the dog meat farms, such as Jindo mixes and Tosa mixes. It also includes dogs who look like Corgis, Setters, Yorkshire terriers, and hound mixes.

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Dogs from the Ansan, South Korea dog meat farm rescue arrive at the Humane Society of the United States Care and Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Hagerstown, Md. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for HSI)

"For these dogs flying to the United States, South Korea’s dog meat industry will soon be a distant memory. But hundreds of thousands of other dogs are still languishing in terrible conditions on dog meat farms for a meat that very few Koreans want to eat and most want banned," Sangkyung Lee, dog meat campaigner for Humane Society International/Korea, said in a statement. 

About 1 million to 1.5 million dogs are killed each year for food in South Korea, which is a decrease from several million about 10 to 20 years ago. The dogs are intensively bred on farms where they’re locked in metal cages, often without water or proper food, according to the Humane Society International. 

Many are found living in squalid conditions, suffering from malnutrition and skin and eye diseases. Most of the animals are slaughtered at around one year of age, usually by electrocution, the group said. 

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Dogs are shown locked in a cage at a dog meat farm in Ansan City, South Korea, on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. The operation is part of HSIs efforts to fight the dog meat trade throughout Asia. (Credit: Jean Chung/For HSI)

Growing calls to ban dog meat consumption

As younger people find dog meat a less appetizing dining option and pets are growing in popularity, restaurants that serve dog meat in South Korea have been dwindling.

Polling conducted in 2020 by Nielsen Korea found that nearly 84% of Koreans said they had never eaten dog meat nor were not willing to do so in the future. Furthermore, 59% of people polled said they would support banning dog meat in South Korea, a notable increase from 2017 (35%).

Last year, the South Korean government said it would launch a task force to consider outlawing dog meat consumption, which drew protests from both dog farmers and animal rights activists. 

Ju Yeongbong, general secretary of an association of dog farmers, accused the government of "trampling upon" the people’s right to eat what they want and farmers’ right to live. 

The farmers, mostly poor, elderly people, want the government to temporarily legalize dog meat consumption for about 20 years, with the expectation that demand will gradually taper off, Ju told the Associated Press last year. 

Meanwhile, Lee Won Bok, head of the Korea Association for Animal Protection, called the government’s announcement "very disappointing" because it didn’t include any concrete plans on how to ban dog meat consumption and many want a quick end of the business.

For its part, officials with the Humane Society International said the effort Is "still no closer to ending this cruel industry" than it was a year ago when the task force was first announced.

"The time for delay is over. We are urging relevant government ministries to proactively work towards ensuring the task force delivers a plan to end the suffering of all dogs living miserable lives on dog meat farms," Lee said in a statement this week.

Since 2015, the Humane Society International has worked on the ground in South Korea to permanently closed 17 dog meat farms and rescue more than 2,500 dogs who have found homes in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands.

Jeffrey Flocken, president of Humane Society International, noted how the 34 dogs most recently have a new chance to enjoy life. 

"As a proud parent of a dog rescued in 2019 from the 15th farm Humane Society International helped transition out of the dog meat industry, I know these dogs can become wonderful additions to a family," Flocken said.

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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.