Twenty-three dogs from a South Korea dog meat farm have arrived in shelters in the northern Virginia city of Alexandria, and are waiting to be adopted by their new owners.
The dogs, many only months old, were born at a canine meat farm on the outskirts of Seoul. Normally they are raised until they are seven or eight months old before being handed over to become a local delicacy.
According to South Korean media reports, the country consumes 120,000- 200,000 dogs every year. But the owner of one farm decided he wanted out of the industry, providing an opening for his dogs to be saved as pets.
Kelly O’Meara, director of the animal rights group Humane Society International, said the lucky dogs escaped their fate because of the organization’s communication and negotiation with the farmer.
“So in Korea, we have had the opportunity to meet with several farmers, and we learned that this particular one was looking to close his stores," she said. "And the actual farmer said he likes dogs, and he’s happy to work with us to find a better place, a better home for these dogs."
These dogs were put on planes earlier this month bound for Alexandria, where the local Animal Welfare League greeted them with veterinarian examinations, haircuts and baths.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter took three of the dogs: Snowball, Zinah and Rhonda. Tawny Hammond, the shelter's executive director, said the new arrivals help on many levels.
“We are really excited to be part of this, because it sheds light on the important work that Humane Society International is doing around the world, but also sheds light on what we are doing regionally on a regular basis," she said.
The Humane Society International gave the dog farmer $2,500 to help him close his dog farm. The farmer has already converted his land to growing blueberries.
“We heard that there’s been a positive response to the particular farmer we are working with, and he’s been receiving local media praise for working with us and for releasing the dogs to us to give them a better life in the U.S.," said O'Meara.
Humane Society International is working hard to lessen the Asian dog meat trade and hopes to collaborate with more dog farmers in helping them leave this industry.
Anqi Hu and Yuyang Ren contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.