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Tag: korea

Celebs take part in grisly dog meat protest


I’m the first to agree that there should be no punches pulled when exposing atrocities against animals, and dogs in particular, but an animal rights group went a step too far in a Los Angeles protest in which celebrities held up animal corpses.

“Actual dead dogs” is how some media reports described the canine corpses displayed by actresses Priscilla Presley, E.G. Daily and Donna D’Errico in the Tuesday protest against dog meat consumption in South Korea.

The dead dogs weren’t victims of Korea’s dog meat trade, but were recently euthanized dogs on loan from a local veterinarian.

Last Chance for Animals, the organization behind the protest, was aiming for shock value, and got it — but it was an unnecessary and tasteless display.

Unnecessary, because the horrid realities of the Korean dog meat trade are bad enough, and easy enough to show people. Resorting to rounding up deceased family pets to hold up before the TV cameras was a tasteless stunt that was off the mark, went overboard and smacked of deception.

The celebrities were given gloves to wear while handling the carcasses, and the dogs used in the protest were reportedly going to be “respectfully cremated” upon its conclusion.

Wearing a “stop dog meat” t-shirt over white scrubs, Presley held a dead dog in her arms as she stood outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Los Angeles. D’Errico and Daly also held dog corpses, while actress Kim Basinger held a sign depicting three dead dogs hanging from wires — an actual photo, from actual Korea.

The latter made sense; using dead American pets did not.

The protest one of three held Tuesday across the globe. Similar demonstrations took place in Washington D.C. and Seoul, according to Last Chance for Animals.

Tuesday was the beginning of Bok Nal — known as the three hottest days of the Korean summer. Dog meat consumption rises exponentially this time of year in S. Korea as dog meat soup, known as Boshintang, is still viewed by some as a way to combat the extreme heat and humidity.

In reality, the consumption of dog meat is steadily decreasing in South Korea and only older generations are still eating it.

Nevertheless, the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., estimates South Koreans slaughter an estimated 2 million dogs for human consumption each year, and Humane Society International estimates that 30 million dogs around the world are killed for food each year.

It’s cruel. It’s wrong. It’s exploitation. And there are many ways to fight it.

Seeking out dogs who died for totally unrelated reasons and holding their bodies in front of TV cameras should not be one of them, because it, too, reeks of exploitation.

(Photos: People.com)

Korean court says killing dogs to sell their meat is illegal

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A South Korean court has ruled that killing dogs to sell their meat is illegal, but that’s not likely to serve as an immediate reprieve for any of the one to two million dogs slaughtered each year.

Nevertheless, the first of its kind ruling is a step toward outlawing the dog-meat trade in South Korea — one of several Asian countries where the practice, though fading, continues.

The Humane Society International estimates that 30 million dogs a year are killed for food around the world.

The court’s decision was reached in April but not widely known until details were released at the end of June, National Geographic reported.

The decision ruled in favor of the animal rights activist group Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth, or CARE, which sued a dog-farm owner in Bucheon, South Korea, last year for “killing animals without proper reason,” according to Agence France-Presse.

The Bucheon city court convicted the owner on the basis that meat consumption was not a legal reason to kill dogs. The court also said he violated building and hygiene regulations that authorities put in place to crack down on dog-meat farms. The owner was fined three million won (about $2,700 US) and waived his right to an appeal.

“It is very significant in that it is the first court decision that killing dogs for dog meat is illegal itself,” Kim Kyung-eun, a lawyer for CARE, told the Guardian.

The precedent “paved the way for outlawing dog meat consumption entirely”, she added, saying CARE planned to file complaints against “many more” dog farmers.

A lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party has introduced a bill to the National Assembly to ban dog meat consumption.

Owners of dog farms and slaughterhouses are protesting the ruling.

“Cows, pigs, chickens, and ducks are all raised to be consumed,” said Cho Hwan-ro, a representative from an association of dog farms, on YTN television. “Why not dogs?”

Cho said there are some 17,000 dog farms across the country, and that the government should legalize and license them. “Otherwise,” he said, “we’ll fight to the end.”

Eating dog meat is a fading practice in South Korea, engaged in mostly by older citizens. Younger generations steer clear of dog-meat consumption, adopting the view that dogs are pets, not food.

(Photo: Dogs look out from cages at a dog farm during a rescue event on the outskirts of Seoul in 2017; by JUNG YEON-JE, AFP/GETTY)

Remembering my son, Joe

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On May 13, 1992, a flight arrived at LAX from Seoul and three Korean babies, orphans all, were carried off the plane by their escorts to be handed to their new adoptive parents.

My wife and I were there to meet one of them, our new son whom we’d decided, based on photos, would be named either Sam or Joe, depending on which seemed the better fit after seeing him in person.

He was the last one off the plane, a tiny thing with an unruly shock of jet black hair that was shooting in every direction after the 11-hour flight. For a moment, we debated whether he might be an “Elvis.” But we opted for Joe.

Joe WoestendiekFast forward 26 years — and God, did it ever go too fast — and Joe (full name Joseph Yoon Tae Woestendiek) was lying in a coma in a Memphis hospital, his hair shaved off, and parts of his skull removed to accommodate the swelling of his severely damaged brain. The outlook was bleak, at best.

He was on his way home from work when his car rear-ended a dump truck on the interstate near Holly Springs, Miss. The truck grinded to a halt. The truck driver pulled Joe out of his burning car. And he was airlifted by helicopter from Mississippi to Memphis — to, ironically, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.

He died 13 days later. For nearly two weeks doctors kept him sedated and fought to relieve his cranial pressure even while warning that, if he came out of his coma at all, he would likely have little to no brain function due to the extent of the brain damage. They warned, too, that lung problems had developed, and that those and the strain on his heart, were more likely to take his life. His heart came to a stop on June 18.

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I write this another week later, partly to explain why our ohmidog! posts came to a halt, but more to keep his memory alive, and in hopes that writing about it will be cathartic and make some of the numbness and emptiness inside me go away.

joetromboneJoe grew up in Orange County, Calif.; Yardley, Pa., Anderson, S.C., and Florence, Ala. He lived in recent years with his mom and stepdad in New Albany, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a B.S. in computer science from the School of Engineering.

He’d recently started a job he loved — in the information technology department of Automated Conveyor Systems, Inc., of West Memphis, Ark.

His visits to my home, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dwindled, but up until he finished college he’d come here regularly on holidays and in the summer. He loved guitars, and video games and, of course, dogs. He’d always get teary on his last day visiting; I was never sure if it was because he was leaving me, or leaving my dog Ace. He’d yet to meet my new dog, Jinjja, also adopted from Korea.

SONY DSCWhile here, Joe would volunteer with the Forsyth Humane Society, an organization I’ve also done some work with as a volunteer. He’d walk dogs at the shelter, and help out at events, his favorite role being donning the mascot costume — a swelteringly hot furry dog outfit — and working the crowd.

He had three dogs of his own at home.

Because of his love of dogs, and the joy working with humane society brought him, I’ve decided a fitting tribute would be to make a donation to the humane society in his name — one significant enough to merit a plaque with his name on it.

His name on a brick paver is one option, but I, for what are probably selfish reasons, want more.

I want to try to make a donation large enough to make him a lifetime sponsor of one of the shelter’s kennels.

That way, everyone who walks in to look at the many dogs available for adoption will see his name, and maybe more importantly, I will. I like the idea of a kid once in need of adoption sponsoring a kennel that will house dog after dog after dog in need of adoption — forever.

That requires a $10,000 donation, not an amount I have handy, or can even dream of obtaining. But, unachievable as that might be — and needing something to do right now — that’s what I’m working on.

So here is my plan.

I’ve started a Facebook fundraiser aimed at donating $10,000 to the Forsyth Humane Society in his memory.

SONY DSCA memorial service for him will be held in Mississippi this week.

But I want to do something here in Winston-Salem — perhaps a mini-concert featuring some musician friends of his and mine. I’m working now on setting that up.

I want it to be a simple and joyful hour or so, nothing somber, nothing speech-filled — just a chance for local friends to come together and say goodbye, maybe at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. We always enjoyed going there.

When Joe arrived in the U.S., my then-wife Jenny and I were living in Orange County, California. The riots that Rodney King’s beating sparked in Los Angeles were only starting to settle down. I was covering those for the newspaper I worked for at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Every morning, I would cruise through the most devastated areas, returning to a hotel in the evening to write. It was a bleak couple of weeks, the kind that make you worry about humanity and its future. Nearly every day, my rental car was pelted by rocks and chunks of concrete. At nearly every stoplight, I’d receive hateful stares and threatening gestures.

I remember wondering as I drove those streets how, and why, complete strangers could hate me so much.

Amid all that, we got the call that our adoptee was on his way. We were supposed to pick him up in Korea, but somebody goofed. My boss was kind enough to give me some time off, away from the riots, to bond with my new son.

And in the ensuing weeks, and years, I remember wondering how a complete stranger could love me so much.

And me him.

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That’s what he taught me, and it’s not unlike the lesson anyone who adopts a dog learns. Show a creature love and respect and loyalty and you’ll get it back — unconditionally and exponentially. Oppress, abuse and disrespect it and you’ll get … what you deserve.

As abruptly and prematurely as Joe’s life ended, I will always be thankful for the joy he brought me and the lessons he taught me.

I’m thankful, too, for all the prayers and expressions of support I’ve received from friends (and even strangers). I am overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook fundraiser. I posted it three days ago, and it’s already more than halfway to its goal.

Thanks also to the caring staff at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, and to that truck driver, Michael Simpson of Memphis, whose actions gave Joe a fighting chance.

Those wishing to contribute to Joe’s plaque can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

Contributions can also be made through ohmidog!, or directly to Forsyth Humane Society. Please specify they are for Joe Woestendiek’s memorial plaque.

Push to ban dog farms in South Korea continues after the Olympics spotlight fades

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The Olympics are long over in South Korea, but the push to get the country to ban farms where dogs are bred for human consumption, continues — and with a few positive developments.

A new bill, introduced to the National Assembly earlier this month by Lee Sang-don, a member of the Bareunmirae party, would remove the legal basis for factory-style mass breeding of dogs, reported the Korea Times.

Animal Liberation Wave, an animal rights group that launched a campaign against the farms in January, praises the introduction of the bill.

“There are more than 3,000 dog farms where a million dogs get slaughtered every year,” it said in a statement this week. “We hope the bill will become a law to take the first step to end the dog meat industry in Korea.”

The campaign seeks to ban the production and consumption of dog meat and to have dogs legally defined as companions only.

It is still legal to breed dogs to sell their meat in South Korea — and to consume it — as long as the animals are not killed in open areas.

The practice of eating dog meat has been declining, and younger Koreans are generally opposed to it.

But the tradition continues among older people, many of whom believe dog meat aids their virility.

Under livestock industry law, farmers can pursue profit with livestock, which includes dogs and many other animals. But according to the Livestock Processing Act, dogs are not categorized as livestock.

As a result of that, dog meat cannot be traded through major distribution channels like other meat. Instead it is most often sold directly to restaurants, or at outdoor markets.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the number of restaurants serving dog meat soup, known as “bosintang,” decreased from 528 in 2005 to 329 in 2014.

Regardless, the ALW says, there are still up to 3,000 dog meat farms operating in the country, where more than a million are raised each year, only to be slaughtered for their meat.

The Animal Liberation Wave (ALW), in partnership with the international animal rights organization Last Chance for Animals (LCA), launched a global campaign to ban dog meat from South Korea. The campaign started with a website, petition page (www.donghaemul.com/stopdogmeat) and video against dog meat.

Jiyen Lee, the founder of ALW, said, “there has been a tendency in this country to consider the dog meat issue as a matter of personal choice when in fact it is the government who is hugely responsible for exacerbating the problem by failing to formulate social consensus.

“It is high time that a change is made to fit the current Korean society where 1 out of 5 nationals are living with dogs as companions.”

As part of the campaign, a “Flower Dog Project” is underway, featuring 8 dog statues that will appear in major cities.

(Image, from the Flower Dog Project, via Animal Liberation Wave)

A little reminder from Jinjja and me

A friend came across this ABC News video from a year and a half ago, depicting more than 30 dogs rescued from a meat farm in Korea on their way to shelters in North Carolina to be put up for adoption.

As she guessed, the second dog to last dog shown in the video, is — though Jindos can look pretty similar — the one that now belongs to me, I think.

jindolJinjja is his name.

He has come a long way since this news footage (which I’d never seen) was shot — turning from a virtually wild dog scared of everything to a trusting and loyal companion.

I thought, with the 2018 Winter Olympics concluding, with the controversial dog meat trade having diverted only a little focus from the games, this would be a good time to remember that a small minority of Koreans eat dog.

Despite government efforts to suspend or at least better hide the practice, dog meat was still being served in restaurants in PyeongChang, and numerous dog farms are located within just miles of Olympic venues.

With all those inspiring moments of athletic achievement we watched, all those examples of humans trying to be their best, it was easy to ignore that harsh reality — that one to two million farm dogs are butchered each year in South Korea.

Some news media used the Olympics as an opportunity to remind us of it. Others, like NBC, barely touched on it — apparently not wanting to turns its spotlight from those inspiring moments of athletic achievement. Instead, it presented South Korea’s best side, and that best side is a truly great side.

But South Korea has a worst side, too, and yes, we just reminded you of it.

Some would say eating dog meat is part of Korean culture, and thus deserves to be free from criticism, but it doesn’t — not anymore than the tradition of slavery in America deserves to be excused, forgotten or forgiven.

gus-kenworthy-matt-wilkas-dogBefore the Olympics was a good time to let South Korea know, as many did, what the rest of the world thinks about the practice. During the Olympics was a good time too, and some Olympians even did.

In addition to the other Olympians who were planning to help a Korean farm dog get to the U.S., one, Gus Kenworthy, a member of the US. Olympic ski team, also took action.

Kenworthy, who brought home a rescue dog after the Sochi Olympics, visited a dog farm near PyeongChang in the process of being closed by Humane Society International and left with a puppy named Beemo, according to PEOPLE magazine.

He didn’t single-handedly rescue 90 dogs from the farm, as a Fox News headline shouted: “US Olympian Gus Gus Kenworthy rescues 90 dogs from Korean dog meat farm.” But he did assist Humane Society International in gathering up the dogs and arranged to adopt one of them.

Hyped as reports like that might be, photo ops that they might be, its good so see some attention on the issue.

If it’s one you feel strongly about, express that somehow. Comment here, or elsewhere, or sign a petition. Contribute to Humane Society International’s program that cuts deals with the dog farmers to close their farms, and brings the dogs to the U.S. and Canada for adoption. Provide a home to one of those who end up here.

You won’t get a gold medal for it. But you might keep one dog from ending up on a dinner plate or in a soup bowl. And for that you can feel proud.

(Bottom photo: Gus Kenworthy /Instagram)

Few restaurants comply with official request to stop serving dog meat during Olympics


As the Winter Olympics got underway in PyeongChang, dog meat was still being openly served in most restaurants that offer it, despite attempts by the government to keep a lid on the practice.

The South Korean government had requested restaurants cease the practice and even offered subsidies to those that did, but only two of the 12 restaurants serving dog meat in PyeongChang complied, a county government official told AFP.

A minority of South Koreans still consume dog meat — most commonly in a soup called boshintang — many of them in the belief it leads to increased energy during the hot summer months.

Between 1 and 2 million dogs a year across the country a year are butchered and sold at markets and to restaurants.

Well before the Olympics began, activists stepped up campaigns to ban dog consumption, with protests in Seoul and online petitions urging boycotts.

In PyeongChang, the county government asked the restaurants with dog meat items on the menu to stop serving the food in exchange for subsidies.

“Some of them initially shifted to selling pork or things instead of dog meat only to find their sales plunging sharply. They then switched back to dog meat,” PyeongChang County government official Lee Yong-bae told AFP.

“We’ve faced a lot of complaints from restaurant operators that we are threatening their livelihood,” he said.

Signs advertising dog meat dishes such as boshintang, yeongyangtang or sacheoltang have been replaced with more neutral ones such as yeomsotang (goat soup) to avoid giving “a bad impression to foreigners” during the games, according to Channel News Asia.

South Korean authorities periodically try to persuade restaurants to change their menus or drop signs suggestive of dog meat during major international events hosted by the country, as was the case with the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

The tradition has declined as the nation increasingly embraces the idea of dogs as pets instead of livestock, and most younger South Koreans avoid it.

A Gangwon province official told The Associated Press there were no plans to relocate dog farms situated near Olympic areas. There is one farm near Pyeongchang; six near Jeongseon, where the downhill skiing course is located; and 10 in Gangnueng, the coastal town that will host events like figure skating and hockey. Gangwon has 196 registered dog farms, though most are closer to Seoul.

While NBC isn’t too likely to be showing us any of the during its Olympics coverage, USA Today provided a fairly expansive report on one such farm today

Hundreds of dogs have been removed from Korean dog farms by Humane Society International and sent to the United States for adoption, including mine, a Jindo named Jinjja.

The group assists the farmers in establishing new careers in exchange for closing down and surrendering their dogs.

duhamel2One Olympic competitor, Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel escorted two rescued farm dogs on a flight back to Canada after competing in a qualifying event last year in PyenongChang.

Duhamel adopted one of them, through the group Free Korean Dogs.

“Most of the time, he just wants to sit in everybody’s arms,” Duhamel said of the dachshund mix, named Moo-tae. “He doesn’t even care to play, he just walks up to everybody and wants to be held.”

Duhamel, a silver medalist in Sochi, is hoping to assist in closing a dog farm once the Olympics conclude. She, American skier Gus Kenworthy and American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis have appeared in a public service announcement about the dog meat trade.

Duhamel has arranged to fly home another rescued farm dog when she returns to Canada, so it can be put up for adoption there, according to CBS News.

(Photos: At top, Park Young-ae, owner of Young Hoon Restaurant, arranges dog meats at her restaurant in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Associated Press; photo of Duhamel and Moo-tae, courtesy of Free Korean Dogs)

Bring us your tired, your poor, your … On second thought, don’t bring us anybody

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The American Kennel Club apparently wants to keep dogs rescued from foreign countries out of America, saying they will bring disorder and disease to our pristine shores.

In voicing its opposition to a California bill that would prohibit the sale in pet stores of dogs sourced from professional breeders, the AKC says the law would create a “perverse incentive” to import “greater numbers of street dogs and dogs of unknown origins.”

Limiting the public’s access to purebreds, as the AKC maintains the proposed law would do, would result in the U.S. becoming “a magnet for the world’s strays and sick animals.”

jindolAKC Vice President Sheila Goffe, in a commentary piece published in the Orange County Register, singles out dogs rescued from abusive situations in foreign countries — as my dog was — and portrays them as unpredictable and diseased.

Dogs that come from rescues and shelters, or through rescues and shelters, aren’t as well-screened, as temperament-tested, and as disease-free as breeder-raised dogs purchased at pet stores, she says.

Those “facts” are questionable. That logic is wrong. That stance reeks of snobbery and flies in the face of those words on the plaque at the Statue of Liberty, and what many Americans still think America is all about.

And, as with the immigration debate when it comes to humans, it’s more than a bit ironic, considering all those purebred breeds the AKC celebrates, and makes money from, came from foreign countries.

Of course, the AKC isn’t saying America should ban German shepherds, or Irish setters, or Portuguese water dogs, or even Afghan hounds — or any of the many other breeds who proudly carry their country of origin in their breed names.

Those, assuming they are purebreds, and have their paperwork, and pay their AKC dues, are always welcome here.

The great unwashed masses, though? The dog saved from being turned into meat in Korea? The starving street dog in Afghanistan or some other war torn country? That mangy cur searching for sustenance in the aftermath of an earthquake, tsunami or other far away natural disaster?

The AKC apparently believes they have no place here.

Reasonable people disagree when it comes to how much effort we as Americans should put into saving dogs from overseas. Legitimate arguments can be made on both sides.

Given the shrinking but still mind-boggling number of unwanted dogs that are euthanized in U.S. shelters, given the needs created by our own disasters at home, like Hurricane Harvey, there are those who feel American dogs should come first. Others feel our compassion for animals shouldn’t be limited by boundaries — that we should help dogs who need help, wherever they are.

There’s a place for that debate. But Assembly Bill 485 — still awaiting Senate approval — really isn’t that place.

AB 485 bans the pet store sale of dogs, cats and other pets raised by breeders, who, especially when it comes to puppy mills, aren’t always the rule-following, highly policed and regulated operations the AKC portrays them as.

DSC05635 (2)Saying the law will lead to an influx of unwanted and unsavory foreigners, as the AKC is doing, is the same kind of fear tactic that taints our country’s broader debate over human immigration.

Banning the sale of breeder raised dogs at pet stores will not lead to an influx of Mexican rapist dogs, or Muslim terrorist dogs.

What the bill would do is limit pet stores to dealing in dogs obtained through shelters and rescues — a direction many stores and some local governments have already embraced.

Having visited many humane societies and a few puppy mills, I can tell you that even if shelters face fewer government-imposed restrictions, their dogs are more likely to be temperament-tested, well-adjusted and healthy than those that go the puppy mill to pet store to consumer route.

And we don’t see rescuing mutts or purebreds, from any country, as “perverse.”

“Selling only shelter or rescue dogs creates a perverse incentive to import greater numbers of street dogs and dogs of unknown origins for U.S. retail rescues,” Goffe, who is the AKC’s vice president for government relations, wrote. “In fact, the U.S. already has become a dumping ground for foreign ‘puppy mill’ and rescue dogs, importing close to 1 million rescue dogs annually from Turkey, several countries in the Middle East and as far away as China and Korea, according to the National Animal Interest Alliance.”

(Don’t be too impressed by the reference to NAIA. It is mostly a front group for breeders and agribusiness and the AKC, and it was founded by an AKC board member and a biomedical researcher.)

“It’s a crap shoot whether these foreign street dogs Californians may be adopting are carrying serious diseases,” Goffe added. “That’s because while importation laws require all dogs to be examined by a licensed veterinarian, foreign paperwork is commonly invalid or forged … dogs from other countries are not subject to the health and welfare laws of professionally-bred U.S. dogs.”

The AKC says Californians would lose their freedom to have the kind of dog they want if the law passes, implying that pet stores are the only place one can find a purebred.

That’s not the case. You can generally find any breed of dog in a shelter or rescue — often even locally. And the proposed law would not prevent people from buying dogs directly from breeders.

So fear not, California (even though the AKC would like you to.) Your liberties are not about to be taken away. Your shores are not about to be inundated with sickly, mangy killer dogs who don’t speak English.

And if more dogs rescued from other countries end up in the U.S. — in hopes of saving their lives and making their lives better — chances are they, as with the human immigrants before them, will only enrich our culture, whether we’re talking California or Connecticut.

We’re not a nation of purebreds, no matter what the AKC says — not when it comes to dogs, and not when it comes to people.

(Photos: At top, dogs awaiting slaughter at an outdoor market in Seoul; Jinjja, the rescued Korean dog I adopted; Jinjja and me)