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Now open in L.A.: PetSpace, an adoption center that’s much, much more

All humane societies and SPCA’s see education as a large part of their mission, but few if any have taken that to the heights of PetSpace, a newly opened center in Los Angeles that is finding new homes for dogs and increasing our understanding of them at the same time.

Over a dozen dogs and cats were adopted during Saturday’s opening of PetSpace, the brainchild of Wallis Annenberg, the CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation.

But, as the Los Angles Times reported over the weekend, PetSpace is about much more than rehoming dogs.

It’s part interactive science center, part children’s playground, part pet paradise, part research institute and part adoption center.

On top of facilitating adoptions, PetSpace will offer educational programming for the general public on how to care for pets, all while conducting its own scientific research focused on the human-animal bond.

To that end, it has established a Leadership Institute with 16 research fellows — experts in different academic fields — who will write a white paper on the science behind the human-animal bond.

“This whole notion of the human-animal bond goes so much deeper than how you choose a pet,” said Eric Strauss, a biology professor at Loyola Marymount University and the research paper’s lead author.

“We’re bonded emotionally through our pets. But we’re also bonded ecologically, medically and economically. I think that’s the real genesis of a new science here.”

Located in Silicon Beach in Playa Vista, the 30,000-square-foot facility houses more than 80 dogs, cats and rabbits from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control shelters.

It has a staff of 30, assisted by more than 100 volunteers and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission.

Its creators see it as a destination in itself, a fun place that will inform and delight adults and children (and maybe make them even happier yet if they end up taking home a dog or cat).

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During Saturday’s opening, a large mechanical dog barked and wagged his tongue while perched on the second floor. On the ground level, visitors read animal adoption stories displayed on panels and explored an interactive touch screen wall announcing upcoming events.

The center, in addition to periodic seminars, will have a Sunday reading program where children can sit down with a book and an animal.

Meanwhile, in the various play areas, visitors snuggled with cats and dogs, while others met with dogs in their “suites.” Outside each is an interactive digital screen with information about the pets up for adoption.

The center will be making an intense effort to match the right dog to the right owner.

“What’s your lifestyle like? What time commitment do you have? We’ll have a pretty extensive conversation,” said J.J. Rawlinson, the center’s animal care manager and veterinarian. “We really take time to get to know the animals.”

The adoption fee is $80.

PetSpace has partnered with organizations across the city to develop its programming, which will also include higher education workshops on human-animal relationships.

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It will also provide medical resources, including aqua therapy, that are generally not available in shelters.

Part of the center’s mission will be to educate the public about spaying, neutering, grooming and other aspects of caring for a pet.

Wallis Annenberg is a billionaire philanthropist who has long made pets one of her pet projects.

“In my life, animals have been a profound gift — not just dear companions, but teachers and healers, showing how to live and love fully and in the moment. That’s why the opening of Annenberg PetSpace is so thrilling for me,” said Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation’s chair and CEO.

The family foundation was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, whose company published, among others, TV Guide, Seventeen magazine and my old alma mater, the Philadelphia Inquirer. It also operated radio and TV stations nationwide. Annenberg died in 2002.

Wallis Annenberg, his daughter, described PetSpace as “a world-class space in which to study the joys and mysteries of life in all its forms. It will be an innovative and interactive place for families to engage with animals and animal lovers of all kinds.”

“And it will be a chance for me to pass on the kind of awe and affection and insight animals have provided me for all my years,” she told the San Diego News Daily.

The Annenberg team worked with Los Angeles area animal welfare organizations, including Los Angeles Animal Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, spcaLA and the Humane Association of California to design the center.

(Photos and video from the PetSpace website)

Something rotten in paradise

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In the Indonesian paradise of Bali, unsuspecting tourists are regularly being served dog meat — described as “chicken satay” — by restaurants and street vendors.

Eating dog meat is legal in Bali, and some locals consume it regularly, but according to a shocking report by ABC.net in Australia, visitors to the popular tourist destination are unwittingly buying it from vendors.

“Dog meat is essentially filtering into the tourist food chain,” said Lyn White, director of Animals Australia, which is campaigning to end the practice and recently conducted an investigation into it.

The Australian news program “7.30” reported last week on the investigation into how dogs are brutally caught, butchered and barbecued not far from the beaches visited by more than 1 million Australians every year, then served to those who don’t realize what they’re eating — though some seem to have suspicions.

Footage filmed by the investigator included this exchange between a vendor and a group of Australian tourists:

Vendor: “Satay just $1.”

Australian: “Mystery bag. What is, chicken?”

Vendor: “Satay.”

Australian: “Satay chicken, not dog?”

Vendor: “No, not dog.”

Australian: “I’m happy just as long as it’s not dog.”

bali3It was the same vendor who moments before had admitted to an investigator that what he was selling was dog meat.

The dogs are bludgeoned, shot, strangled, and sometimes poisoned with cyanide, leading to public health concerns.

It is possible for cyanide to be passed on to a human, even after a dog has been cooked.

While eating and selling dog meat is not illegal in Bali, the methods use to kill the dogs do violate animal cruelty laws, Animals Australia says.

The dog meat is being sold by vendors on the beach and in specialty restaurants. Locals know the letters RW on a restaurant mean dog meat is being served, but most tourists do not.

An undercover investigator for Animals Australia infiltrated the dog trade and spent four months documenting how it operates.

bali1You can see the ABC.net report here, but be warned it contains some graphic videos and images.

The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) estimates about 70,000 dogs a year end up as dog meat.

It has documented 70 restaurants serving dog meat in Bali.

“We rescue them from the [dog] trader,” said Bagus Ndurah, a volunteer with BAWA. The organization is currently looking after about 150 dogs, he said.

Animals Australia is looking at ways to end the dog meat trade, including compensating those who earn a living from it in exchange for their promise to leave the business.

“We’ve given thought to that,” White sad. “I’ve even spoken to our management about possibility of compensation,” she said.

“This is not about laying blame. This is about unnecessary cruelty that puts the human health population at risk and is causing shocking animal cruelty.”

“We are certainly also willing to partner with the Bali government to bring about a positive solution here.”

(Top photos from Animals Australia; bottom photo by James Thomas, ABC News)

A gathering of second chancers

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Five years ago, Danny Rawley was an inmate in a North Carolina prison.

One year ago, my dog Jinjja was one of more than 100 dogs waiting to be slaughtered for their meat at a dog farm in South Korea.

Four weeks ago, I was on an operating table, having what doctors suspected was a cancerous kidney removed.

Recently, we all came together, proving not only that it’s a small world, but one that — thank goodness — often gives us second chances. And sometimes third, fourth and fifth ones as well.

Some backing up is in order.

jindolI adopted Jinjja last November from the Watauga Humane Society, which was hosting four dogs that were among a much larger group rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and brought to the United States for adoption.

He was fearful. He was skittish. He didn’t seem to much like men. But in the months that followed he made slow but steady progress, in everything except for his fear of meeting new human males and his tendency to run away if he experienced a small taste of freedom.

We made it to our first obedience class (and he did great) before I got ill, and, in a matter of weeks, found myself scheduled to have one of my kidneys removed.

Given the outlook beyond the surgery was uncertain, given the operation comes with a six-week no-heavy-lifting recovery period, given Jinjja’s tendencies to sometimes tug pretty hard on the leash, to be be slow to warm up to new people, and the escape risks he posed, I was hesitant to ask a friend to care for him.

I was contemplating surrendering him back to the Watauga Humane Society when a friend at the Forsyth Humane Society offered to take him into her own home. Darla Kirkeeng, the society’s director of development, volunteered to keep him as long as necessary — even after I warned her of his eccentricities and that he’d likely be slow to warm up to her husband.

But that’s where he has been since shortly before my surgery, living happily with Darla and her daughter, tolerating Darla’s husband, and joining her pack of two other rescued dogs, Luigi and Olivia.

DSC06532As if that act wasn’t gracious enough, Darla threw in a bonus, and arranged for Danny Rawley, a dog trainer, to drop by for a few sessions with Jinjja.

That’s where I met him recently when I dropped by Darla’s for my first visit with Jinjja since my surgery.

Despite my fears that being apart would harm the bond we’d developed, Jinjja remembered me and didn’t hesitate to approach and allow me to pet him and show him affection — something he doesn’t generally permit males to do.

Danny admitted Jinjja was skittish around him, too, and snarled and snapped at him during the first session.

Once leashed though, Jinjja paid attention to instructions and, as Danny demonstrated, made some great progress.

Danny also gave me some advice on working on recall — something Jinjja, if he accidentally gets unleashed outside, doesn’t begin to understand. The smallest taste of freedom, and he’s off and running, and gets into a mode where he will allow no one to approach.

My guess is that’s partly a trait of his breed (Jindo), a once wild breed that populated an island of the same name off the coast of Korea. Partly too it’s a result of the dog farm environment, where dogs live crated or chained, and anyone putting their hands on you was likely a sign that it was your turn to be slaughtered or taken to market.

Likely, it is something he will never fully overcome. Freedom, and the desire for it, are powerful forces, especially to any being that has had his freedom taken away.

DSC06516 (2)If anyone can relate to that, it’s Danny.

After growing up in Mt. Airy, he got caught up in selling drugs and, through that, using them.

“That turned my whole world around. I ended up hurting a man,” he said.

He was sentenced to 12 years. While serving that sentence at the state prison in Caledonia, a maximum security facility in the eastern part of the state, he learned of and enrolled in a newly started program called “New Leash on Life.”

In it, a inmates spent their days with dogs who lived on the grounds who were awaiting — but not always prepared for — adoption.

He jumped at the opportunity because of “my love for dogs for one thing, and wanting to put something positive in my life.”

As has been the experience with similar programs across the country, it worked, improving the lives and outlooks for both canine and human participants.

Danny remembers the first dog he was assigned — Lee, a coon dog mix who seemed pretty untrainable and also had a problem with recall. Jinjja reminded him of another dog he trained in prison, named Spirit, who was mostly feral, to the point she preferred eating bugs to eating dog food.

“She finally came around to be a great dog,” he said. In all, he probably trained 25 to 30 dogs while in prison, and just as he helped changed them, they helped change him.

DSC06542“When a dog and a man come together, somehow or another it changes your soul, that feeling that your care, that you believe, and it don’t go away … The more you work with dogs, the more you earn their trust. It’s all about trust.”

When the New Leash on Life program was launched, with funding from the humane society, at the Forsyth Correctional Center, Danny agreed to a transfer to help train inmates there to take part in the program.

He was released in 2012, after serving eight years, and was hired as an employee by the Forsyth Humane Society.

Danny, in addition to having his own business training dogs, is based at the facility and spends much of his time making house calls, going to the homes of people who are having issues with their recently adopted dogs.

The New Leash program at Forsyth Correctional Center is now on hiatus while the Humane Society undergoes a pretty big transition and restructuring. Since moving into a new building, its adoption rates have surged, and dogs are moving in and out more quickly. On top of that, there are plans for the society to assume all adoption services at Forsyth Animal Control, part of an ongoing effort to make Forsyth a “no-kill” county by 2023. The goal is to reduce the countywide euthanasia rate from 64 percent to 10 percent or less.

Under the proposal, the Humane Society would run the 215-kennel county shelter, possibly by as early as this fall.

It’s a massive joint effort between Animal Control, the Humane Society, the Animal Adoption & Rescue Foundation and other local rescue groups — aimed at better coordinating all agencies involved and giving thousands more dogs and cats a second chance.

And, as both Danny and Jinjja could probably attest, you can’t put a price tag on a second chance. I’d agree (though my hospital, judging from the one-foot high stack of unpaid bills on my desk, seems to do a pretty good job of it).

Though I’m down to my final kidney, my surgeon was pleased with how things went, confident that they removed all of the cancerous mass, and he has given me a positive prognosis with no need for follow-up treatments.

I’m feeling good enough to, as of today, fire ohmidog! back up and make it daily, or almost daily, again.

And, in about one more week, more or less, I’ll be ready to bring Jinjja back home.

Jinjja gets temporarily rehomed, and ohmidog! is taking a health-related hiatus

DSC06491 (2)By the time you read this — our last post for what will likely be a while — I will have parted ways with one dog and one kidney.

The kidney, which doctors suspect contains a cancerous mass, is being removed in a surgery today and will be gone for good.

Jinjja, the Korean dog I adopted five months ago, will be staying with a friend who has offered to care for him for as long as it takes, which could be a while, between the hospital stay, a six-week recovery period, and whatever other treatment may follow.

So the purpose of this post is to inform those of you who may be following Jinjja’s story of this latest twist in the life of a dog who was rescued from a meat farm in South Korea, transported to the U.S. for adoption, and has been making progress — slow as it sometimes seems — in becoming social, and trusting, and having the kind of life a dog deserves.

And to let you know that there won’t be any new reports on ohmidog! for a bit.

I dropped Jinjja off Sunday at the home of the Kirkeengs. It was his second visit there, and during both he seemed to enjoy everything about it — from the spacious fenced back yard to the pack he’ll be sharing it with: a small and playful dog named Luigi, and Olivia, a lab mix.

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He immediately hit if off with Darla, who is director of development for the Forsyth Humane Society, and with her daughter Katie, who I best remember as the person inside the humane society’s mascot’s suit during various fund raising events.

I’d already informed Darla’s husband, Eric, that Jinjja would be slower to warm up to him, as he’s skittish around men he hasn’t gotten to know.

DSC06479But, all in all, the situation — disregarding the medical stuff — couldn’t be more ideal. The yard seems pretty escape proof, and Jinjja has shown a tendency to get free, take off, and resist efforts — even with treats involved — to recapture him.

It will be interesting to hear how Jinjja handles being one of three dogs in a house. Upon entering it, his first inclination was to make his mark. It’s something he never felt much need to do inside my home, but did when he visited the home of my neighbor and her five dogs.

The Kirkeengs had three dogs, but recently lost one of them, Oreo. The other two seemed happy to welcome a new member.

As an added bonus, Darla has arranged for the humane society’s trainer to drop by from time to time to work with her dogs and Jinjja.

DSC06460And Jinjja does still need some work, especially in learning to come when he is called — something he’ll do inside. Outside, asking him to come often has the opposite effect.

We’d managed to complete one class together at the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club (during which he performed magnificently) before I started ailing in April.

The progress he has made, the progress he still needs to make, the need for him to get more exercise than my small courtyard provides, and the lengthy recovery period I’m facing made figuring what to do with him during all this a huge stress producer.

I’m told that, after getting out of the hospital, I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for six weeks, which also means I shouldn’t be tugged by a dog who sees a squirrel and can’t help but lunge in that direction.

I contemplated returning him, for his own good, to the Watauga Humane Society, where I adopted him after his arrival from Korea. But then I heard from Darla. I knew she was a friend, but how good a friend she turned out to be left me kind of stunned. And highly relieved.

Now I suppose we should get back, just briefly, to my right kidney. (I plan to keep the left one). All of it will be removed, as well as a hunk of my renal artery, as the mass appears to have made inroads up into it.

After that, what they’ve removed will be tested, allowing them to make a definitive diagnosis and have a better idea where all this is going.

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I apologize for the details.

Ironically, it was just last week that I complained about surgical details, scar photos and graphic health complaints of people I don’t really know taking up so much of my Facebook feed, and all those other annoying Facebook posts I get tired of. Let’s just say I was a little cranky.

I promise to try and keep you informed — while sparing you any gross details — both here and on my Facebook page.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Kirkeengs. Thanks to my brother, Ted, who I’m sure I’ve only just begun imposing on. And thanks to my readers — be they old friends, new friends, Facebook friends, or strangers.

Why’d ya have to kick that dog, Marge?

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In the final episode of its 28th season, “The Simpsons” was making some pretty wry and thought-provoking observations on the ever evolving human-dog relationship.

But then Marge had to go and kick a dog, ruining — or at least tarnishing — the whole episode.

“Dogtown” started off with Homer swerving his car to avoid hitting the Simpson’s family dog, Santa’s Little Helper, and running into a human instead — a down on his luck character named Gil who was, like the dog, seeking to forage a meal from garbage cans in an alleyway.

The injured Gil files a lawsuit against Homer — one that he seems sure to win until Homer’s lawyer notices and seizes on the jury’s love for dogs.

He mounts a defense emphasizing Homer’s desire not to hurt the dog, highlighting all the wonderful things dogs do for us, citing historical examples and showing cute YouTube videos that lead jury members to utter extended “awwwwwwwws.”

Gil’s lawyer tries to show that a dog’s life shouldn’t be valued as highly as a human’s, pointing out some less than desirable canine habits, but the jury finds all of them cute as well.

They issue a quick not guilty verdict for Homer, and he goes on to be revered as a local hero for sparing the dog’s life.

bartNoting how the case has captured the public’s attention, Mayor Quimby decides he needs dog-loving voters in his camp and begins passing laws that turn Springfield into a dog paradise

Springfield becomes not just dog-friendly, but dog-serving, dog-pandering — a place where many human establishments once serving humans now service dogs almost exclusively, a place where dogs don’t have to answer to anyone about anything.

As farce, it worked. The outrageous scenarios it portrayed of dogs being coddled, pampered, spoiled and placed on pedestals rang at least a tiny bit true.

Other than a dejected Gil, who has realized the town values dogs more than someone like him, the only naysayer is local veterinarian Dr. Budgie, who predicts that dogs, without humans to be subservient to, are going turn on people once they discover that humans are no longer in charge.

When they do, things get chaotic. Dogs take over, taking advantage of new opportunities, but also growing more in touch with their wild roots, stalking and preying and wandering the streets in roaming packs.

When Santa’s Little Helper departs the Simpson’s home to live with his own kind, Bart and Lisa set off to find him, but end up getting treed by a pack of snarling dogs, led by the alpha dog, a Chihuahua.

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Marge comes to the rescue, facing down the pack of dogs, and particularly their leader. When that dog growls at her, Marge growls right back, ordering them all to sit and stay.

That, plot-wise, could and should have been enough to show she has reasserted her dominance, but the writers took it a step too far. Marge is shown kicking the small dog, who disappears into the horizon like punted football. After that she’s completely in control, dogs resume their place, and — though the esteem in which I once held Marge is forever altered — life returns to normal in Springfield.

It just wasn’t in keeping with Marge’s character. Sure, she’s a no-nonsense sort and will lay down the law when she has to, but violence has never seemed part of her repertoire. She has always favored brains over brute force.

It was not a good message. Even in a cartoon. Even in an adult cartoon known for pushing the envelope. And the worse part was, it was not at all necessary to the story, just a gratuitous dog kick that should have been edited out.

We’re guessing that scene wouldn’t have survived in Sam Simon’s day.

Simon, director and co-creator of the series, died in 2015, but his philanthropy and love for dogs lives on through the Sam Simon Foundation, which, among other causes, works to save animals from harmful and abusive situations.

To see that other part of his legacy, namely “The Simpsons,” resorting to depicting a dog being kicked — and kicked by Marge rather than a doofus like Homer — strikes me as shameful.

Surely, the writer could have come up with another three-second gag to replace that, and not leave viewers with the impression — even in the context of comedy — that violence and brute force are needed to train, discipline or keep dogs “in their place.”

That’s my verdict, anyway, and as for the writer we’d suggest a good strong correction — like a firm jerk on the leash.

The 5 most deadly dogs in the world

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“Revealed: The 5 Most Deadly Dogs in the World”

When I saw that headline on Total Dog Magazine’s website, I clicked on it, fully intending to read it, scoff and then rip the author apart — just in print, of course.

Now, having read it, I couldn’t agree more.

SONY DSCGenerally, these top five, top ten, top 12, top whatever most dangerous dog lists pinpoint the same old culprits. Rottweilers will be in there for sure. Pit bulls without a doubt. Maybe Dobermans, Akitas, German Shepherds or Chow Chows.

Sometimes they throw in Great Dane, I guess just because they are so big.

Generally these lists are composed by stupid people relying mostly on stupid websites that tout so-called statistics from biased sources.

But this list put together for the UK publication by Ryan O’Meara gets it right.

Here, in his words, are his top five, in reverse order:

5. Badly fed dog: Badly fed dog is the animal who’s been fueled up with a diet fit for an Olympic weight lifter, but who only ever gets to expend about 20% of the calories he takes in. He’s got lots of energy and his mismatched diet can manifest in bouts of sudden energetic rampaging. Badly fed dog would ask you to consider; how you would feel spending your day in an office when every inch of your body is throbbing and twitching as you crave the opportunity to actually use up some of those excess calories. Badly fed dog would be happier and safer if his diet reflected his lifestyle.

4. Never had any friends dog: Otherwise known as ‘totally under socialized dog’. He was a little naughty when he was a puppy, so his owner decided he’d be better off being kept away from all other forms of animal life. He now spends his days obsessing over what it would be like to chase other dogs around and, by George, one of these days he’s gonna actually do it! Never had any friends dog is going to present his owner with a lifetime of problems, he has no social skills and has never had a chance to learn natural interaction through the teachings of his own kind. He’ll meet new dogs and will be about as socially adept as a 45-year old virgin at a Playboy mansion party. He’s going to blow it. Big time.

3. Shouty: Shouty is the dog who has spent most of his life shouting at folks or being shouted at himself. He sees people on his street, he shouts at them. In turn, his owner shouts at him. Shouty presumes being shouted at is a recognition of his excellent work. In fact, hearing his owner shouting in response to his own shouting encourages his assumption that they’re just as upset, anxious, nervous, angry as HE is about the audacity of other people/dogs/pigeons to walk past his window. Shouty is relentlessly encouraged and endorsed in his shouty behavior and, a bit like no friends dog, shouty spends his days imaging how good it will be when he FINALLY gets his chance to get face to face with the objects of his ire.

2. House proud: House proud dog is SO touchy about people coming to his digs unannounced, he’ll happily maim you for your insolence in trying to visit his abode without obtaining the correct visitation paperwork. House proud dog does a line in dishing out injuries to posties, meter readers and delivery people. Fortunately for house proud dog, his owners absolutely REFUSE to believe he is capable of violence, so leave him completely unattended to dish out his own brand of justice to anyone brash enough to consider entering his domain.

1. Spoilt dog: “That’s mine and these are mine, those are mine, I’m entitled to that, I believe that I saw that first, I lay claim to those, I own all of these, I’m the rightful proprietor of this” … Quite simply, he believes everything he wants, he can have. Woe betide anyone to tell him differently. His timid owners have never had the heart to let him know that in the human world, simply showing your teeth and growling doesn’t constitute a legal contract on the ownership of goods. They let him off and, worse, they let him keep his spoils, which he’ll gather up and place in his own corner of the world.

Sadly, spoilt dog is, one day, going to meet someone who is unaware that he has previously laid claim to every possession on earth. Unfortunately … this person is going to have to find out the hard way just how deep spoilt dog’s sense of entitlement runs. Really hard luck if it happens to be a youngster, blissfully ignorant to the fact that the shiny ball on the floor is spoilt dog’s most prized possession …

O’Meara concludes by pointing out that basing any bad dogs list on breed is ridiculous. Yes, breed can play a role in a dog’s behavior. But nurture plays a far larger one than nature.

Generally, and while there are exceptions to every rule, you don’t have to look that far to see what is responsible for the undesirable, aggressive or anti-social nature of your dog — no farther than the closest mirror.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

A kind of ban may kind of be in effect at next month’s Yulin dog meat festival

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It might not be permanent, and it might not be too strictly enforced, but Chinese authorities have banned dog meat sales at this year’s upcoming Yulin dog-eating festival, according to two U.S. nonprofit organizations.

Thousands of dogs are slaughtered, cooked and served each year at the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival festival in Yulin to mark the summer solstice.

This year, though, amid growing protests and international opposition, the Yulin government has, at least reportedly, banned the city’s dog meat vendors from selling the meat for one week starting June 15.

That’s according to several animal welfare organizations who say they’ve received “word” — if not documentation — of the ban.

The 10-day festival is slated to begin on June 21.

The Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project and Humane Society International (HSI), both based in the U.S., said in a joint statement that they’d confirmed the ban through unidentified local contacts.

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” Andrea Gung, executive director of the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, said in the statement.

The organizations attributed the change to Yulin’s new Communist Party secretary, Mo Gongming, who reportedly wants to improve Yulin’s national and international image.

The ban will carry penalties, with fines of up to $14,500 and jail time for violators.

Yulin officials are not verifying the report, but they say they’ve never officially sanctioned the festival in the first place, and some apparently decline to acknowledge it exists.

“There’s never been a dog meat festival in Yulin,” the Los Angeles Times quoted a municipal official as saying this week.

While some media outlets are reporting the festival has been cancelled, that doesn’t appear to be the case, National Geographic reports.

“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet,” Peter Li, a China policy specialist at Humane Society International, said in a statement. “But if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolize China’s crime-fueled dog meat trade.”

People in parts of China, as well as other Asian countries, have prized dog meat for centuries, though its consumption has been on the decline as pets become more popular, especially among younger people. Some older residents still consider it a delicacy with health benefits.

The dog meat festival, on the other hand, is relatively new, having started in 2010 and quickly become an object of international scorn.

The festival’s dog meat sales have dropped each year since 2014, according to Li. He expects, even with the ban, such sales will be going on during the festival.

“It won’t be public resistance … they’ll probably do it secretly,” he said. “They’ll probably sell it at night, or they’ll supply dog meat to restaurants. They just won’t sell it at the market.”

While he hadn’t seen anything documenting the ban, the organization heard about it from local dog meat traders, as well as three visitors to a local market, he said.

Most Chinese people would like to see an end to the festival, according to a survey cited by China’s official New China News Agency.

“It is embarrassing to us that the world wrongly believes that the brutally cruel Yulin festival is part of Chinese culture,” Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association charity, a Chinese animal welfare group, told the agency. “It isn’t.”

(For more stories about the dog meat trade, click here.)

(Photo: A vendor waits for buyers at a market in Yulin during last year’s festival; by Wu Hong/ EPA, via NBC)