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Tag: south korea

HSI shutting down 200-dog farm in Korea

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Another massive rescue of Korean farm dogs is underway.

Activists on Tuesday freed 10 more dogs from a 200-dog farm in Wonju, 55 miles outside of Seoul, Reuters reported.

Dogs on such farms are raised to be slaughtered for their meat.

reuters1Humane Society International estimates it will take weeks for all the dogs on the farm to be removed, after which they will be transported to the U.S. for adoption at local animal shelters.

The farm, once it closes, will become the sixth shut down by local advocates and activists from HSI, who negotiate with dog farmers and assist them in getting started in different occupations.

HSI estimates there are 17,000 dog-meat farms in the country.

The removal of the dogs follows six months of negotiations, medical examinations and vaccinations. Because airline flights can only carry a limited number of dogs a day, it will take a couple of weeks for HSI to rescue all 200 of the dogs at the farm.

You can see a Reuters slideshow of the operation here.

reutersThe owner of this farm cited his poor health as the reason he was getting out of the business.

HSI officials expected the dogs will be quickly adopted once they arrive at shelters in the U.S.

“As soon as they’re ready for adoption, we find that there are line-ups of people – literally people would line up at shelters – in the U.S. to adopt these dogs because people are so engaged by their sad and compelling stories,” said Andrew Plumbly, another campaign manager for the HSI.

Plumbly said hygiene at the dog farm was “non-existent,” and that dogs spent most of their lives outside in rusty cages.

A minority of Koreans consume dog, and the consumption of dog meat is declining.

Humane Society International hopes bringing more attention to the issue will lead the government ban the breeding of meat dogs in South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics are being held.

(You can read more about Korean farm dogs, including mine, here.)

(Photos: Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Returning from an exotic locale? Chances are you can bring someone home with you

wapo2We don’t expect Donald Trump to like this (so don’t anyone let him know) but if you’re returning from a trip to some exotic locale — Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, India, Turkey, Colombia, and the Carribean to name a few — you can bring someone back with you to live in the good old USA forever.

And you don’t even have to marry them — or even ever see them again.

Yes, we’re talking about dogs. (Aren’t we almost always?)

But we’re also talking about an easy-lifting way to accomplish a good deed and play a small role in making a dog and a family happy.

Our country’s incoming new leadership may no longer wants those tired, poor and hungry humans we once welcomed from other countries, but the door is still pretty open for dogs (my dog included) that have been saved from horrific conditions in other countries.

Many of them have gotten here thanks to Americans returning from vacations, who are willing to take a little extra time to serve as their official escorts.

How it all works was documented recently by The Washington Post, in a story by Andrea Sachs, who not only talked to people who have done it, but did it herself.

Sachs recently returned from a trip to Colombia with a dog named Max.

“To unknowing eyes, I was just a typical traveler with a strong pet attachment. But in truth I was a flight volunteer for Cartagena Paws, an animal-rescue center that, among myriad services, places Colombian street dogs with adoptive families in North America. My ultimate responsibility was to escort the 8-month-old puppy with the overactive tail to the District. I was headed north anyway, and, well, Max needed a lift.”

There are animal welfare groups around the world rescuing dogs who face bleak lives, or worse, and then finding themselves hard-pressed to find them homes.

One solution they’ve turned to is exporting rescued dogs to the U.S.

Often, though, they need a little help getting them from there to here.

“We use flight volunteers who are met at the airport by the adoptive parents,” said Lisa Anne Ramirez, executive director of the Humane Society of Cozumel Island in Mexico. Those meetings, she says are “usually very emotional and tearful.”

While most airlines will ship a dog traveling solo in their cargo holds, that’s the most expensive and least desirable method.

Dogs are generally permitted to travel as checked baggage, or as carry-ons in the cabin, but in those cases they must be traveling with someone.

The rescue organizations handle the paperwork, so, for the escort, it’s often just a matter of handing those papers over at customs.

Sasithorn “Sas” Moy of Harlem said little inconvenience was involved after she agreed to escort five dogs from Thailand to the U.S. when returning from a trip to visit family.

She contacted the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation, which sends at least 25 dogs to North America a month.

“I just showed up at the airport and they gave me the paperwork,” she explained after a nearly 20-hour flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. “I said goodbye to the dogs at the X-ray machine. It was painless… There was extra time on the front end and the back end, but it was worthwhile.”

wapo1Sachs advises in the article that travelers wishing to serve as flight volunteers contact the rescue center as soon as they secure their flights.

“I messaged Cartagena Paws two weeks before my departure and received a reply peppered with exclamation points: We would love to have some help! Yes please!”

She and Max flew from Cartagena to Atlanta to Washington — he making the trip next to her in a carrier in the cabin. In Washington, he was picked up for a trip to his new home in Texas.

Sachs also put together a list of international rescues seeking escorts for dogs coming into the United States. You can find more details and contact information at that link.

(Photos: Max arrives in Washington from Cartagena, Columbia, and waits to make the trip to his forever home in San Antonio; volunteers at Cartagena Paws say goodbye to Max at the airport in Cartagena; by Andrea Sachs /The Washington Post)

When Jinjja met Roscoe, and the family heirloom that keeps on giving

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Jinjja met Roscoe this week, and it was a mostly peaceful exchange.

In what was his first real outing since learning to jump in the car by himself, with help from a family heirloom, Jinjja had his first meeting with my brother’s dog at Winston-Salem’s Leinbach Park — neutral ground as neither had been there before.

They touched noses, sniffed each other out, and did well together — at least for the first 30 minutes.

dsc05619-2So far, despite his unusual background — Jinjja was rescued from a farm in South Korea where dogs were being raised for slaughter — he has gotten along with every dog he has met, from the flirtatious basset hound who lives across the street to rambunctious poodle (one of five) who live next door.

We haven’t tried a real dog park yet, but I think he is ready for that. (And I almost am.)

Leinbach Park is semi dog friendly. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park. But dogs, leashed or unleashed, are not allowed on the hiking trail.

“Dogs are not allowed on the sandstone walking trail at any time. The reason should be obvious,” the city’s director of Parks and Recreation told the local paper a couple of years ago.

(Sorry, but the reason isn’t obvious to me.)

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Still, we mostly heeded the warning, staying to the side of the path as much as possible, Jinjja sniffing for squirrels and Roscoe barking without provocation, which he’s prone to doing.

It wasn’t until we stopped walking and took a seat on a bench that, for no apparent reason, there were snarls and growls exchanged, followed by another brief confrontation. There was no real contact, and they seemed to make up afterwards.

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Ace (my previous dog) and Roscoe never became the best of friends. They reached a certain detente after a confrontation that also seemed to have erupted out of nowhere, and left both a little bloody.

On the way back to our cars Jinjja and Roscoe got along fine. I was a little worried about getting him back in my Jeep. I was advised by shelter he came from that it wasn’t a good idea to try to move his body or pick him up. Even though he has almost totally let down his defenses with me, I still haven’t tried to lift him up yet.

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Instead, to get him loaded, I used an ottoman from my living room, which my mother passed on to me. It has a cushion that was embroidered by a great aunt we all called “Tan.” When I back my car up to curb, the ottoman, along with a dangled piece of bologna, makes it easy for Jinjja to step up and jump in.

This was our first time without a curb. He hesitated a bit, but on the third try, just as the bologna ran out, he went for it, back paws getting a good grip on the carpet-like embroidery, and made it.

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I’ve been leaving the footstool in my car, until I buy some kind of sturdy box to replace it.

(That will probably be about the time he realizes he doesn’t even need it.)

I still have Ace’s old ramp, but it’s pretty cumbersome, and Jinjja might resist climbing up it even more than he has jumping in.

Once Jinjja masters the leap into the back seat — with or without a step up — the footstool will return to the inside of the house, and I will continue to prop my own feet up on it, even if it is a work of art.

“No feet on the footstool” would be a stupid rule, much like “no dogs on the trail.”

tanTan, whose real name was Kathleen Hall, was a teacher for many years and later a principal. There’s a school nearby that is named after her. She died in 1983. But I’m guessing what she shared with students lives on in them, their children and their children’s children.

The same can be said of her embroidered footstool, which is helping a South Korean dog who had no future hop into a car and see a little more of the world.

It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving.

ohmidog! has a new mascot … It’s Jinjja

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Meet … Jinjja???

Yes, Jinjja!

It’s a Korean word — sort of the equivalent to our “Really???”

He’s a Jindo, or more likely a Jindo mix, rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and transported to the U.S., where he ended up at the Watauga Humane Society — one of five humane societies in North Carolina that recently accepted 31 dogs that were saved from ending up as meat.

The shipment was the latest in a continuing series by Humane Society International, which works with animal welfare groups in Korea to obtain the dogs by persuading the farmers to forfeit them and go into a new line of work.

jindolJinjja, who is the color of ginger, will be the new mascot for ohmidog!

He came home with me Thursday, and has becoming a little more sociable and playful everyday since.

He spent the first day pacing, and giving me wary sideways looks. The second day he began approaching me without too much hesitation. Saturday was the first day he sat down — at least within my view. Sunday was the first day I actually saw him lay down.

As his shyness recedes, his personality comes forth — playful, loving (once he gets used to you), ultra alert, and I suspect, once he comes entirely out of his shell, highly energetic.

Several times I tried to sneak into the room he has chosen to sleep in — he has opted not to bed down with me so far — but he always hears me coming, gets up and meets me as I enter.

He is fearful of sudden movements and unexpected noises, and seems unfamiliar with things like TV sets and running water — but each day, less so.

The humane society in Boone sent two of the four Korean dogs they accepted home with new owners Thursday. A third is awaiting adoption. And a fourth will stay there a little longer for additional training through the shelter’s Diamond Dogs program.

A video of the turning over of the leashes — it was live streamed on Good Morning America as part of its Mission PAWsible series — is at the bottom of this post.

The woman in charge of the shelter’s Diamond Dog program gave me a few pieces of parting advice — give him a couple of weeks just to get accustomed to his new surroundings, always bring my hand up to pet him from beneath his line of vision, not from above, and don’t try to manipulate or maneuver him. He has shown he doesn’t like that.

gettingboone1He’s now in a period of just getting used to things, so for a couple of weeks I won’t attempt anything much discipline-wise other than politely informing him where not to pee.

(I did look up the Korean word for “sit,” just to see if he’d respond. He didn’t.)

He has shown no destructive tendencies so far, and has declined, even when invited, to jump up on the sofa or bed. He has emitted only a few barks — usually only upon seeing squirrel or cat out the window. He has been good with the handful of people and dogs he has met.

I do my best not to have Ace expectations. It would be unfair to him, especially given his background, to hold him to the standard of Ace, the gentle giant I traversed the country with.

Could Jinnja become a therapy dog, like Ace did, despite Ace’s being the size of a small pony and made up of four breeds commonly labeled “dangerous” — Rottweiler, pit bull, Akita and chow? I think there’s a good chance of that.

Just as I found Ace while reporting a story, I met Jinnja (then Jindol) when I went to Boone to meet the dogs who had arrived from Korea. You can find those stories here and here.

The shelter let me spend 15 minutes inside the kennel of each one, even though they were still under quarantine at the time. One came nowhere close to me; two got close enough to give me a sniff. The fourth, Jinnja, was the only one to let me pet him.

Underneath all the fear, I saw something in him, as I did with Ace when I bumped into him at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care. Don’t ask me to put my finger on it, but it was enough for me to apply to adopt him.

My hope is that just as Ace became an ambassador for pit bulls and all wrongly labeled “dangerous” breeds, Jinjja will show that “farm dogs” despite all the cruel treatment they are subjected to and the cruel fates they usually face, can be great pets, too.

Jinjja has a ways to go to become the traveling dog Ace was. Leaving the shelter, he refused to jump into the back of my Jeep. Picking him up, it was decided, should be avoided. So the shelter loaned me a crate. Once inside it, we lifted him aboard, and he was calm and quiet for the whole 90-minute ride home.

Of the four Korean dogs at the shelter, Lucy went home with a Raleigh woman, Jindol (his shelter name) went home with me. Princess is still available, and Murphy will stay a little longer to work on his socialization skills.

Jinjja was supposed to be neutered the day before I picked him up, but when the shelter brought him to the vet it was discovered he already had been. It’s not likely that happened at a dog farm, so speculation is that before that he was someone’s pet and was either stolen or strayed before ending up at the dog farm in Jongju.

It is taking him some time to get used to my house. He gets startled when he sees his reflection in the sliding glass doors, the fireplace doors or the front of the oven.

For three days he avoided being in a room when the television was on.

Based on our time together so far, though, I have the highest of hopes. He still has sides to his personality I haven’t seen, I’m sure, but he’s doing a great job of adjusting — and those who freed and sheltered him deserve all of the credit for that.

Let’s get that part straight right from the start. He’s a rescued dog, but if you ever hear me say I “rescued” him, slap me in the face.

As is the case in any dog adoption, the human is getting far more out of the deal. And any truly noble acts took place before he came to me — by the activists who made efforts to get the dogs off the farm, by Humane Society International, which transported them, by the shelters in the U.S. that took them in.

Those were the noble deeds. Me? I’m just getting a dog, though I do admit to feeling good that I’m a small part of getting one dog off a dog farm.

It was while I was in Korea, researching my book on dog cloning, that I first saw in person some sides of the dog meat trade. I visited an outdoor market where they were on display, packed together in crowded crates, while alive, and butchered on site. One can’t see that sight and not want to do something about it.

So expect more reporting about the campaign to end the practice in the months ahead on this website, and expect more photos and stories about Jinjja’s adjustment.

Given he’s a dog with a story to tell, I will assist in that.

One more thing I cannot take credit for — his name. Looking for something that sounded a little like Jindol — but didn’t remind me of the Louisiana politician I’m not a fan of — I contacted a friend from Korea, who presented the matter to her family.

Among those they came up with were Ginger, which perfectly describes his color (not to mention the way he walks) and Jinjja.

Really??? It’s the reaction most common among those with whom I’ve shared some of his story. Astonishment. Disbelief. Not entirely unlike the phrase “ohmigod!” from which this website derives its name.

So it will be Jinjja, with an optional question mark or exclamation point.

Jinjja?

Jinjja!

Oh there he is, laying at my feet as I type, just like Ace used to do.

Even though the TV is on.

(Photos by Ted Woestendiek)

A funny — and life-saving — thing happened on the way to the slaughterhouse

jindolThe four new arrivals at the Watauga Humane Society, a no-kill shelter nestled in the hills outside Boone, N.C., started adapting to their new lives not long after they were removed from a farm south of Seoul, Korea.

They continued to grow a little less timid and fearful of humans while they were quarantined in a sanctuary there, flown to the U.S., driven hundreds of miles to five different shelters and quarantined again.

Soon, they’ll be making the final step on the way to becoming pets, instead of meat.

twopartsThe four are among 31 dogs from Korea who arrived at no-kill shelters in North Carolina last week to be put up for adoption.

And those 31 are among 525 who have come to the U.S. and Canada since the beginning of last year, when Humane Society International added a new strategy to its campaign to bring an end to dog farms in Korea — closing them down one farm at a time.

Representatives of HSI, working with local animal activists in South Korea, have succeeded in shutting down five farms since then — usually by negotiating deals with the farmers and persuading them to pursue new, less brutal livelihoods.

One dog farm became a blueberry farm. Another switched from raising dogs to growing chili peppers. One dog farmer agreed to stop dog farming and, with help from HSI, started a water delivery business.

It’s only a small dent, given there are thousands of dog farms in South Korea, some with 1,000 dogs or more, all being raised to be sold for their meat.

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They are commonly abused and neglected and spend their lives in crates before being sold to markets, where things get even crueler.

Farm dogs are sometimes boiled alive, sometimes beaten before slaughter under the belief that it makes their meat more flavorful. Their meat is sold to individuals and restaurants at open air markets, where you can pick a live one for butchering.

It’s all a perfectly legal tradition under laws in Korea, where a minority of the population still eats dogs, and many believe the meat offers health benefits, particularly in the summer months.

That minority is shrinking more as younger Koreans turn away from the practice, a fledgling animal welfare movement grows and the perception of dogs as family members becomes more widespread.

Perhaps, South Korea will, in time, outgrow the practice. Perhaps the Olympics coming to Seoul in 2018 — as it did in 1988 — will lead government officials, who did their best to hide it then, to take more meaningful steps.

Until then, animal activists — locally and globally — do what they can.

My first exposure to dog farms was seven years ago, when I went to South Korea to research a book I was writing on dog cloning. On the road to achieving that “feat,” researchers regularly bought and borrowed meat dogs from farms, using them for experiments, to help clone the first canine and to clone the dogs of pet-owning customers once the practice hit the marketplace.

I ended up at Moran Market — and quickly wished I hadn’t.

Images of what I saw then still pop up in my head, unasked. I’ll spare you the graphic details.

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It is estimated that more than 2 million dogs are slaughtered for human consumption in South Korea each year.

Add in those consumed in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, and as many as 30 million dogs a year are killed for their meat.

South Korea is the only country where the practice has been industrialized. The New York Times reported in May that government data show there are more than 17,000 dog farms.

The Humane Society program is an attempt to shine a light on the issue, while also giving at least a few of the dogs a chance. On top of that, it strives to show that farm dogs, stigmatized in Korea and often perceived as different from pet dogs, are one and the same.

In one of the largest agreements brokered so far, this past May, a dog farmer in Wonju turned over all 260 of the dogs he was raising — mostly on discarded scraps he collected from restaurants — in exchange for certain considerations.

The particulars of the deal weren’t announced, but HSI offers incentives to farmers — $2,000 to $60,000 depending on the number of dogs involved — who agree to forfeit their dogs and get out of the business.

That farmer, Gong In-young, told the New York Times that many of the dogs were just weeks away from being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Gong, in addition to his farm dogs, had a pet dog, too. Asked about the difference in the lives of his farm dogs and his own dog, a spitz named Snow White, he described it as “the difference between heaven and hell.”

The most recent batch of dogs transported to the U.S. by HSI was small by comparison.

The dogs lived on a small farm in Jeonju, about 120 miles south of Seoul. A Canadian organization, Free Korean Dogs, was tipped off about it by local activists and, upon further investigation, learned it was an illegal operation.

While dog farms are legal, this farmer and his dogs were squatters, occupying land that didn’t belong to him. Law enforcement authorities were contacted and ordered the farmer and the dogs off the land.

That left the farmer willing to negotiate, and he eventually agreed to turn all 30-plus dogs over to a sanctuary at the end of July.

HSI, working with Free Korean Dogs, then took steps to have them shipped to the U.S., making arrangements for them to be taken in and adopted out by no-kill shelters who participate in the Humane Society’s Emergency Placement Partners program.

Those who participate in the program accept dogs the Humane Society has rescued — from everything from puppy mills to natural disasters.

All 31 farm dogs, after their flight and a few days in Maryland, were brought to shelters in North Carolina.

In the parking lot of a shopping center in Cary, the dogs were turned over to volunteers from local humane societies and shelters in the state, the News & Observer reported.

Those shelters included Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo, and the Watauga Humane Society in Boone.

I visited the four who went to Boone last week.

I wanted to take some photos. I wanted to see how anti-social and fearful of humans they might be, or if that resilience dogs are famous for was already becoming apparent.

I wanted to understand how hard it might be for them to shake the past. Many who have adopted them say they’ve gone on to make greats pets — as has been the case with many of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs and other dogs who have seen and suffered from the worst in humans.

And in the back of my head, which is also where those images of meat market dogs linger, I was thinking I might like to have one.

(For part two of this story, click here.)

(Photos: From top to bottom, Jindol, one of the four Korean dogs now at the Watauga Humane Society, by John Woestendiek; caged dogs at a South Korean dog farm, by Jean Chung for The New York Times; dogs awaiting butchering at Moran Market in Seoul, by John Woestendiek)

A modern day Dr. Frankenstein?

A controversial neurosurgeon in Italy said this week that he and his fellow researchers may be able to conduct the first human head transplant next year.

We suggest they start with their own.

Dr. Sergio Canavero has been compared to Dr. Frankenstein, and called a nut, but that hasn’t stopped him and members of his consortium — from China, South Korea and the U.S. — from severing the spinal cord of the beagle above (just so they could try to reattach it) and doing the same with numerous mice.

If that’s not weird enough, Canavero and team say that before they attempt a head transplant on a live human, they will conduct some experiments on human corpses, and then reanimate them with electricity to test his technique.

We can only assume they will do so in the basement laboratory of a castle, during a thunderstorm.

canaveroCanavero is director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group. He released three papers this week, and the video above, showing how he and his collaborators had successfully reattached the spinal cords of the dog and several mice.

Canavero also claims that researchers led by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University have already performed a head transplant on a monkey – connecting up the blood supply between the head and the new body.

Canavero’s short term goal is to successfully transplant a human head. His long term goal, he admits, “is immortality.”

What’s an acceptable number of dogs to torture in a quest of that nature?

We’d say none.

Canavero says the experiments on animals prove the technique used — known as GEMINI spinal cord fusion — incorporates a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to encourage neurons to grow toward each other and connect.

He suspects it will also work in humans to fuse two ends of a spinal cord together, or to connect a transplanted head to a donor body.

He made the claims in a series of papers published in the journal Surgical Neurology International.

The claims have been met with widespread skepticism, according to New Scientist.

Canavero first announced his plans to conduct a human head transplant in 2013 and established the ead Anastomosis Venture, or HEAVEN, project to develop the techniques needed to carry out such an operation.

His collaborator in South Korea is Dr. C-Yoon Kim, a neurosurgeon at Konkuk University in Seoul who partially severed and reattached the spinal cords of 16 mice. Five of the eight mice who received PEG regained some ability to move. The other three died — as did eight who were in a control group.

In another experiment the South Korean team nearly severed the spinal cord of a dog. While the dog was initially paralyzed, three days later the team reported it was able to move its limbs and wag its tail.

South Korea is also the birthplace of dog cloning and up until this summer — when an American company cloned a dog for a customer — it was the only country cloning dogs for profit.

It’s probably not too outlandish — given all the bizarre turns medical researchers are taking — to wonder if surplus canine clones in South Korea end up being used for other wacky experiments by mad (or at least overly zealous) scientists.

In fact, if you look at its history, creating dogs for medical research use was one markets mentioned by the developers and marketers of dog cloning.

Could it be that some of the ideas initially presented in science fiction might ought to remain in the realm of science fiction?

Canavero’s research papers don’t indicate how many more dogs might have their necks snapped or heads severed by his research team as they boldly and single-mindedly stride toward their goal.

But, again, we’d argue that — no matter what medical gains it could lead to for humans — it should be NONE.

North Korea urging citizens to eat dog meat

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The consumption of dog meat may be slowly going out of style in South Korea, but its neighbor to the north is encouraging it.

North Korea’s government since late June has been urging citizens to eat more dog meat, or as leader Kim Jong-un has labeled it, “superfood.”

Media outlets in the country have produced multiple stories this summer about the health benefits of dishes made with dog meat — some of which have even touted the culinary benefits of beating dogs to death before butchering them.

According to the Korea Times in South Korea, the broadcasts have touted dog meat as “stamina food” and “the finest medicine” — especially during the summer.

“There’s an old saying that even a slice of dangogi can be good medicine during the dog days,” reported the Tongil Voice, a North Korean radio broadcast. “Dangogi is the finest of all medicines, especially during the dog days when the weather is scorching.”

The Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS), also a radio network, introduced culinary competitions in Pyongyang last month in which contestants made stew, broiled dishes and other recipes using dog meat.

DPRK Today, a propaganda outlet on YouTube, proclaimed in June that dog meat has more vitamins than chicken, pork, beef and duck and is also good for the intestines and stomach.

It also said a dog should be beaten to death before it is butchered for better taste.

Some observers believe Kim is preparing citizens for hard times ahead. On top of a heat wave that has forced the government to close some businesses, recent reductions in the state-controlled handouts have “severely threatened” much of the nation from getting enough to eat, according to an Amnesty International report.