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Tag: korea

Alyssa Milano helps rescue South Korean dog who was destined to become dinner

Alyssa Milano, whose pleas to help feed hungry children can be seen on TV, may be responsible for a South Korean family missing a few meals.

On the other hand, she helped save a dog.

An abused and neglected dog that drew the attention of a South Korean animal rescue group — a dog that the organization said was being raised for its meat — has been flown to the U.S., her airfare covered by the actress.

The Fuzzy Pet Foundation in California acknowledged Milano’s contribution to rescuing the dog in this video , posted on YouTube last week.

The foundation learned of the dog’s situation in April of 2013 when it was contacted by CARE,  a South Korean animal rescue organization that was seeking to find the dog a new home.

The dog, a Jindo who was given the name Bomi (derived from the word “spring” in Korean), was being raised by a family that, after repeatedly breeding her, planned to eat her, officials at the two organizations said.

She had been chained to a metal pole and was covered with mange and open sores, rescuers said. CARE said she had been bred several times, and that a recent litter of her puppies was found dead and frozen. CARE treated Bomi’s skin problems, and went to work trying to socialize her.

After being contacted by the South Korean group, The Fuzzy Pet Foundation began looking into shipping the dog to the U.S., and making arrangements for foster care and veterinary care.

“As responsible rescuers, we wanted to make sure we could provide Bomi with top-notch veterinary care, and secure her a forever home,” said Sheila Choi, founder and CEO of the foundation. “We also wanted to have a proper plan in place so that we were not just naively flying an animal to a different country without considering the animal overpopulation crisis happening everywhere in this world.”

Milano, whose ads for UNICEF seek to raise funds to feed hungry children, offered to pay Bomi’s airfare.

Bomi flew from Seoul to Los Angeles on November 12, and has been living in a foster home.

“This has been a magical time for all of us who have worked so hard to rescue Bomi,” Choi said. “We are truly humbled by Alyssa’s support, and honored to be in the position to save these precious lives.”

A small percentage of South Koreans still eat dog — mostly the poor, but also some well-heeled types who believe dog meat improves their health and renews their vigor. (South Korea is also the capital of dog cloning, though those efforts have been focused on pet dogs, as opposed to livestock dogs.)

Bomi, at last report, was still available for adoption. Inquiries can be e-mailed to info@tfpf.org.

Documentary looks at Thai dog smugglers

As many as 200,000 dogs a year are smuggled out of Thailand, across the Mekong River and into Vietnam. The cruel journeys — in which the dogs are crammed in cages — last for days. The destination is even, by Western standards, meaner yet.

While smuggling the dogs is illegal, killing, cooking and eating them is not, and remains a tradition among some  in China, Vietnam and South Korea.

This CNN report, based on a new documentary, The Shadow Trade, looks at both the supply and the demand — and the cruel road between the two.

Dogs commonly become dehydrated, stressed, and die during the trips, in which they are packed 20 or more to a cage, and 1,000 or more to a truck.

“Obviously when you’ve got dogs stacked on top of each other they start biting each other because they are so uncomfortable, any kind of movement then the dog next to the one that’s being crushed is going to bite back,” said Tuan Bendixsen, director of Animals Asia Foundation Vietnam, a Hanoi-based animal welfare group.

When they arrive in Vietnam, the dogs are bludgeoned to death and have their throats slit before they are butchered for their meat.

Some animal rights activisists say the stress all that inflicts, even before death, is intentional — that some believe the stress and fear release hormones that improves the taste of the meat.

While some of the dogs rounded up in Thailand are strays — known as soi dogs — John Dalley of the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation estimates 98% of them are domesticated and says some are wearing collars and have been trained and respond to commands.

“You can see all types of pedigree animals in these captured Thai shipments — golden retrievers, long-haired terriers, you name it,” says Dalley. “Some are bought. Others are snatched from streets, temples, and even people’s gardens.”

A dog in Thailand can sell for $10, according to animal rights activists, but they’re worth $60 once they are served up in restaurants in Vietnam, where they estimate a million dogs a year are eaten.

The trade is illegal in Thailand, but, with no animal cruelty laws, traders are commonly charged with illegally transporting animals.  The smugglers usually receive sentences of just a few months in jail. And the dogs taken from them often wind up being captured again by traders, and shipped again to Vietnam to become meat.

Speaking of curious routes …

A good year before I was born, my father wrote a letter while sitting in Korea, and sent it back home to friends in North Carolina.

A week ago, it came back to him — in Arizona.

“It’s so damn cold in here that I just about can make my fingers work,” the letter begins. “… Even so , it’s indoors, so I can imagine how really miserable the boys living in holes are tonight…”

Typewritten on flimsy stationary, the letter goes on to recount a weekend in Tokyo during which he enjoyed burgers and “Jap beer, which is very good.” He asks about what’s going on back home and wonders when he might return. “I’m supposed to come home in February. And now there is a rumor making the rounds that we’re supposed to be rotated to Japan after 10 months in Korea. So I don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

It was mailed to Lil and Roy Thompson, friends and co-workers at the Winston-Salem Journal, both now deceased.

Apparently Lil filed it away in a book, to be specific, an autobiography of William “Billy” Rose, the showman and lyricist who wrote, among other songs, “Me and My Shadow” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”

I don’t know whether Lil parted with the book long ago, or whether it was part of her estate when she died a few years ago, but somehow it ended up among the stock of a second-hand book dealer in Carrboro, N.C.

Robert Garni, once he opened the book, found the letter and read it, took to the Internet to locate my father, Bill Woestendiek, then mailed him the original, along with this note:

” … Quite coincidentally, the other day while sorting out some used books for sale, I came across an old letter that had apparently been tucked away in a hardcover copy of Billy Rose’s autobiography …

“Upon examination of the letter, I realized it may be of some sentimental value to someone and therefore I did a quick search of the Internet where I was able to locate your full name and current address. I am enclosing the letter herewith. I am hoping my information is correct and current so that this letter may finally return to its rightful owner.”

In my father’s letter, he mentions what turned out to be his most cherished memory of the war. He was a lieutenant in the Army, but he was also writing a weekly column for his newspaper back home called “Battle Lines.” The columns weren’t so much about the war as they were Korea and its people. Most of the stories he wrote focused on the children, often orphans of war, and the poverty in which they lived.

His stories led to an outpouring of support from back home in North Carolina — hundreds of pounds of clothing and toys were donated by readers, shipped overseas and distributed at a Christmas party.

“I am overwhelmed, no kidding,” he writes in the letter of the readers’ response. “We’ll have clothes for our party and still some extra to give to the orphanages around here which are also hurting for clothing.”

Reading over those articles, which I found amid my stuff, in a green scrapbook whose binding was falling apart, I understand a little better why he got so misty when, 19 years ago at Los Angeles International Airport, my father watched as my son arrived, a six-month-old, adopted from Korea.

In the faded old letter he thanks Lil for her support, and for keeping him up on the goings on at the newspaper.  “You are one of the best morale builders I have,” he writes.

It took a little help from a thoughtful second-hand book dealer, but, judging from the joyful response my father, now 87, had to getting the letter back, it seems Lil — even though she’s no longer with us – did it again.

Gorilla still mourning death of her mate

Ever since her mate at the Seoul Zoo died last month, a female gorilla named Gorina has been showing signs of depression, zookeepers say.

Gorina and her 49-year-old mate Gorirong, who died last month of old age, had been cohabitating for 24 years.

And even though they didn’t always get along, the female Lowland Gorilla now sits still for days, gazing vacantly at the sky, according to the JoongAng Daily. Her fur has become brittle and she has exhibited violent behavior.

In an attempt to help Gorina, the only remaining Lowland Gorilla in the country, staff at the Seoul Zoo are trying everything from providing entertainment and reading material to making special meals. 

Park Hyeon-tak, a zookeeper at Seoul Zoo who has been taking care of the gorilla couple for four years, said Gorina seems to be suffering from depression.

Gorirong and Gorina began living together 24 years ago when Gorirong was transferred from a zoo in Africa. Together, they were the zoo’s most popular attraction. Members of a critically endangered species, they failed to produce any offspring.

(Photo: from the flickr page of fPat)

“Dog, Inc.” — Uncanning an excerpt

The agitated American was back.

She’d stood before the same ticket agents at the United Airlines counter in Seoul-Incheon International Airport the day before, and the one before that – pleading in tears one moment, loudly threatening lawsuits the next. She and her five nearly identical puppies needed to get home to California and putting them in the jet’s cargo area – as the airline was insisting its rules required – was, to her, out of the question.

Even after she presented them with some dubious “official” certificates stating the pups, despite their tender age, were service dogs, the airline officials held firm. She could carry one in her lap. The other four, they insisted, would have to travel as cargo.

“But I have three handicaps,” Bernann McKinney countered, big blue eyes staring out from under blond bangs. “I should be allowed to take at least three dogs, one for each…”

From Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend

When airline officials refused to let Joyce Bernann McKinney and her five dogs board the cabin for a flight from Seoul to San Francisco, she took some drastic steps. That’s the kind the former beauty queen with a scandal in her past has always been prone to taking — the cloning of her dead pit bull Booger being perhaps  a prime example.

McKinney, who, like other customers, banked her dog’s cells before the cloning of dog was even achieved, would wait for years — first for the science that brought us Dolly the sheep to get around to dogs, then for her laboratory-made replicas to be born.

When, as the first customer of commercial dog cloning, she went to meet the newly born clones, things went smoothly at first. She and her dogs would have a moment in the spotlight — but stepping into it would bring some other things back to life as well.

She’d be recognized from video of the press conference as the woman who, 30 years earlier, had been charged with abducting a Mormon missionary in England, and accused in court of having her way with him. (Her trial never took place because she fled the country then, disguised as a member of a deaf mime troupe.)

Getting Booger cloned — and all this is just part of the “uncanny” referred to in the book’s title — was a similar mission in many ways, marked by the same single-minded persistence and her refusal to take “no” for answer as she crossed an ocean, and a number of other boundaries, to be reunited with her true love. In 1977, it was Kirk, the Mormon missionary. In 2008, it was Booger, the dead pit bull.

When she returned to Seoul a second time to pick the Booger clones up, her problems – once she refused to permit the pups to fly in the cargo hold — continued.

What she did next was one of the scenes I used to open my new book, “DOG, INC.: The Cloning of Man’s Best Friend” — an excerpt of which, for those of you seeking a preview, I’ve just added to the book’s website: Dogincthebook.com.

Once she’d picked up the dogs in Seoul, she sought travelers who would be willing to pretend they were handicapped and take one of the “service” pups aboard the cabin with them. She went to the airport every day, offering free airfare to anyone willing to take part in the ploy. But she found no takers.

Eventually, her money and patience and energy running out, she began bringing the dogs to the U.S. one at a time — leaving four in a Seoul kennel, flying one to San Francisco, leaving him in a kennel there, then flying back to Seoul to pick up another.

Not until her third trip there did she find some willing accomplice. She managed to get all five clones to her home in Riverside, Calif. But there would be more troubles ahead.

In addition to being one of the main characters in my book, McKinney is the focus of a new Sundance-bound film by documentary-maker Errol Morris, called “Tabloid.” It focuses on the 1970s-era “Manacled Mormon” scandal, the feeding frenzy it represented for the British press and the toll that took on McKinney.

“DOG, INC.” delves into Mckinney’s background, as well as those of pet cloning’s other customers, including a police officer-turned-actor who says his German shepherd found the last survivor of 9/11, and a Texas rancher who learned the hard way that the clone of his unusually tame bull Chance, Second Chance, wasn’t the same gentle soul. It looks too at those who funded and researched the effort to clone a dog, and those who sought, and are still seeking, to make cloning pet dogs a profit-making business.

(This Saturday, Feb. 5,  I  — along with my dog Ace (no, he’s not a clone) — will hold a book signing for “DOG, INC.” at the Book Escape, 805 Light Street, in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood, from 1 to 3 p.m.)

Just in time for Christmas … well, almost

I’ve written my name in books before — but always as a reminder to other people to keep their grubby paws off of them, or at least return them when they’re done.

But yesterday was a first: I signed my own book — own, as in the one I wrote.

I don’t get mail delivery here in Petite Acres, the trailer park in Cave Creek, Arizona, where Ace and I are spending December before heading back east in the last leg of our seven months of travels.

So when my publisher called to find out where to send the author’s copies of “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” I used my brother’s address, and he delivered them over the weekend.

I won’t compare the excitement of tearing open that cardboard box to seeing your baby arrive — that would be wrong — but there are some similarities, the main ones being, “Wow, that came out of me?” and the realization that all the labor pains were worth it after all.

The book is about the cloning of dogs — how, and why, it came to be achieved, and the colorful characters involved: from the Arizona billionaire who funded the initial research; to the scientists who produced Snuppy, the first canine clone, in South Korea; to those who marketed the service (even before the first dog was cloned); to those who bought it, the bereaved pet owners seeking replicas of dogs dead or near death.

It was two years in the making (the book, not dog cloning) — a project I undertook right after I left the Baltimore Sun, and one that wouldn’t have been accomplished were it not for the help of a lot of people.

My first autographed copy is being sent to one of them, Rona Kim, a law student in Seoul who served as my guide and interpreter during my visit to Korea, and without whom I would have probably spent three-fourths of my time there hopelessly lost.

The official release date of “DOG, INC.” is Dec. 30, but it can be pre-ordered now from all the major retailers.

By then, Ace and I will be headed back east — first to Washington for a scheduled appearance on the Diane Rehm show Jan. 5 (me, not Ace), then to Baltimore, where we hope to host a couple of book signing parties (details to come) and find a place to call home.

Eating dog could be outlawed in China

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The centuries-old custom of eating dogs in China could become a crime under a proposal that is expected to be sent to the National People’s Congress in April.

What would be the nation’s first law against animal abuse would fine anyone caught eating dog or cat up to  5,000 yuan and up to 15 days in jail. The law would fine “organizations” involved in the practice between 10,000 yuan and 500,000 yuan.

Dog is an age-old delicacy in parts of China, especially in the frigid regions of northeastern China. Nationwide there are dog farms where animals are raised for their meat ande fur.

The proposal comes as a new generation of rich, pet-loving urban Chinese comes of age, the Times of London reports.

Earlier attempts to draft an animal welfare bill in China were dropped after public complaints that human rights should be perfected first.

Dog meat, as in some other Asian cultures, has long been promoted by practitioners of traditional medicine for being high in protein, boosts energy levels and increases male virility.

One waiter at the Cool Old Lady Dog Meat Restaurant in the northeastern city of Shenyang said animal protection awareness was altering popular attitudes about eating cat and dog, according to the Times story. “Personally I think these two animals shouldn’t be food. They’re lovely. I just work for this restaurant to make a living, I have no choice. If the law is passed, I think our restaurant will sell other dishes.”

In recent years, animal rights activist groups have sprung up in many Chinese cities, fighting to halt mass shipments of cats and dogs, crammed in wire cages, from the north to the markets and restaurants of Guangdong. Activists have published photographs on the internet to raise awareness of the fate of the cats.

(Photo: Dogs being sold for meat at Moran Market in South Korea/by John Woestendiek)

U.S. company pulls out of dog cloning fight

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The only U.S. biotech company involved in cloning dogs commercially is pulling out of the business, according to the Korea Times.

Lou Hawthorne, the chief executive of  California-based BioArts, said the company will discontinue cloning dogs for customers in light of failed legal efforts to prevent a South Korean rival company from offering cloning services.

In an e-mailed statement to the newspaper, Hawthorne condemned the Korean company, RNL Bio in Seoul, as “black-market cloners,” and also claimed that the occasional physical anomalies of its cloned puppies proved that cloning is a technology “not ready for prime time.”

BioArts has completed the delivery of  cloned dogs to five clients — all bidders in an online auction held this summer, the company said.

The withdrawl of BioArts from dog cloning leaves RNL Bio as the world’s only company involved in the commercial cloning of dogs.

RNL recently announced plans to open a canine cloning center in Korea next year, where it plans to produce 1,000 cloned dogs per year by 2013.

stills-clones3-lgBioArts had insisted it held the sole rights to clone dogs, cats and other mammals under licenses from Start Licensing, which acquired the rights to the technology developed to clone Dolly the sheep from the Roslin Institute.

Start Licensing filed a lawsuit against RNL Bio for patent infringement last October, but Hawthorne said Start Licensing’s legal response was “too little, too late.”

“It became apparent that Start was unwilling either to commit to defend their cloning patents against infringers or grant to BioArts the right to do so on their behalf,” Hawthorne said.

“Start was afraid to defend their patents against challengers in the dog cloning space because if they lost, they might also lose the ability to control markets they actually cared about — mainly agricultural cloning. Start’s strong preference was to do nothing to defend the dog cloning market against patent infringers.”

In closing its cloning business, BioArts also ended its partnership with Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which is led by scientist Hwang Woo-suk, who was fired from Seoul National University shortly after the announcement that it had cloned the world’s first dog, Snuppy.

While Snuppy was verified to be a clone, Hwang’s studies on cloned human stem cells were exposed as fraudulent, leading to criminal charges.

(Photos: Top, James Symington receiving five clones of his dead search and rescue dog Trakr. Symington, who won BioArts “Golden Clone Giveaway” contest, says Trakr found the last survivor at 9-11; by John Woestendiek. Left, Lou Hawthorne with three clones of his mother’s dog, Missy; courtesy of BioArts)

Stem cell treatments helping dogs, and more

stem-cell4That glob to your left is a stem cell — the type that’s been used to treat more than 1,700 arthritic dogs in the U.S.

“Adult” stem cells and are found throughout the body — in dogs and humans — and can be harvested from fat tissue, expanded and then injected into the area of injury or disease.

Robert Harman, a veterinarian, stem cell specialist and biotechnology entrepreneur who is CEO for the California company Vet-Stem, discussed the treatment in a recent article for the San Diego News Network.

In the U.S., he says, more than 1,700 dogs and 3,600 horses have been treated for tendon, ligament and joint problems over the last six years with their own stem cells, harvested from fat.  Published results in dogs and horses indicate that more 70 percent of have significantly benefitted. Only a few veterinarians have been authorized to offer the service

The treatment has not been approved for use in the U.S. on humans yet, but at least one American has undergone it, through a company in Korea that harvested his fat tissue, isolated its stem cells, then injected them into him in  China. It’s the same company — one of two — that is offering dog cloning. The patient, John Cullison, a California artist, was visiting RNL Bio in Seoul the same time I was there to research my book on pet cloning.

RNL Bio posted this video of him discussing the treatment on YouTube:

(Photo courtesy of Vet-Stem Inc.)

Cloned drug-sniffing dogs on duty in Seoul

Six cloned drug-sniffing dogs have gone on duty at Seoul-Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

The dogs are among seven genetic duplicates of a single Labrador retriever named Chase, cloned at Seoul National University for use by the Korean Customs Service.

The dogs, having completed 16 months of training, will work at the airport and three other customs checkpoints to deter drug smuggling, according to the Associated Press.

They are part of a litter of seven born in 2007 through cloning a skilled drug-sniffing canine in active service. They were all named “Toppy” — a combination of the words “tomorrow” and “puppy.” One dropped out of training due to an injury.

The cloning  was conducted by a team of Seoul National University scientists who in 2005 successfully created the world’s first dog clone, an Afghan hound named Snuppy.

The customs service says using clones could help reduce costs due to the difficulties in finding dogs qualified to sniff out contraband. Only about three of every 10 naturally born dogs the service trains end up qualifying for the job.