Update: Rescuers with Humane Society International shut down another dog meat farm in late March, flying 55 dogs into the United States from a property in Goyang, South Korea. Nine of the dogs were taken to Dallas and 46 to New York City, where they will be taken to shelters in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
"This farm was unlike any others that we have seen in the past because the farm was completely indoors, dungeon like with very little light and no ventilation," Kelly O'Meara, director of Companion Animals and Engagement for Humane Society International, tells MNN.
"The intense smell of ammonia hit me upon walking into the place and other than eyes behind metal wire and bars, the dogs were difficult to see in the poor light. The conditions were awful, just as they are on all dog farms, with small cages often overcrowded with multiple dogs, feces build up throughout the floor of the cages and in this case, a suffocating lack of fresh air."
Like other meat farms, the dog ranged in size and breeds from shih tzus and miniature pinschers to a friendly German short-haired pointer and a sweet Pyrenees mix they named Walter. Several were abandoned pets still wearing collars.
HSI has now closed seven farms and rescued 825 dogs from the dog meat trade. All have been brought to the U.S., U.K. and Canada for placement. You can find a list of shelters where the dogs will be available for adoption here. "We have no doubt this group of dogs will find loving homes and prove to be wonderful companions," O'Meara says.
Starting new lives
Two hundred dogs have been taken from a meat farm in South Korea, whisked away in vans and then planes for new lives as household pets in the U.S., U.K and Canada. Rescued by members of Humane Society International, the dogs will be looking for family homes after living the first part of their lives in cramped cages with little human interaction.
The rescue mission started in early January 2017 and will continue through the month. In the U.S., 176 of the dogs are gradually arriving in animal shelters in Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Because there's limited room for dogs on planes, they can only travel a few at a time, Kelly O'Meara, director of Companion Animals and Engagement for Humane Society International, tells MNN. But the dogs still in South Korea are being well cared for until their plane arrives.
"We have a team of at least three rescuers on the ground visiting the farm daily and caring for all while we transport all remaining dogs off the farm for good," O'Meara says.
Rescuers expect there will be plenty of potential adopters eager to make the dogs part of their families.
"The Korean dogs are highly desirable for adoption in the U.S. Their compelling story brings adopters to the shelter, and local adoption of all dogs and cats in the shelter spike due to the increased traffic," O'Meara says. "Our Emergency Placement Partners are experts in their field at finding the best match for the dogs in their care. They get to know the dogs best and place them with adopters that can provide the most loving and suitable home."
The dogs that were rescued are a variety of breeds, including cocker spaniels, English spaniels, beagles and Pyrenees as well as breeds often found on meat farms, like mastiffs and Jindos.
Although many of the dogs have never been handled, many of the pups are eager to be with people. They seem a little perplexed by toys, but happy to be petted and hugged.
"We are always surprised at the resilient and forgiving nature of the dogs on these terrible farms," O'Meara says. "Many on this farm are incredibly sweet and interactive with people, while some are hesitant but willing and become more trusting after some TLC."
Some dogs may require more handling and possibly some behavior training before they can be adopted, O'Meara says, while others have already been adopted.
Here's a video of several of the dogs right after they arrived at Pet Dominion, a veterinary hospital in Maryland.
Humane Society International has rescued 770 dogs from farms in Korea since 2015. This latest rescue operation occurred in Gangwon Province, which is hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.
A volunteer at Pet Dominion hugs one of the dogs rescued from South Korea. (Photo: Pet Dominion/Facebook)
Watch the story of a 4-month-old puppy making the trek from South Korea to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington:
If you're interested in learning more about adopting one of these dogs, the list of shelters where they've arrived in the U.S. is available here.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated.