WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dozens of dogs rescued from South Korea are undergoing evaluation, medical treatment, and training in the United States to eventually be adopted. But the origin story of where these dogs came from, may be tough to hear.
In South Korea and other Asian countries, the reality is many dogs are not pets, they're farmed as a source of food.
"The situation on dog farms in Korea is incredibly sad, and it's incredibly cruel for the animals that are involved," said Katherine Polak, vice president of Companion Animals and Engagement at Humane Society International.
"They're in very barren cage conditions that are elevated off the ground. They're often sitting in feces. They're subject to brutal winter conditions. Many of them die on the farms."
The Humane Society International has been working with South Korean farmers for years to help them find new jobs, and get dogs off of farms and into homes.
"A lot of the farmers don't want to be doing this, and it really is a dying industry within South Korea. And so the way that we work is, we really try to work collaboratively with these farmers," said Polak. "This recent farm that we closed, which was farm number 18 for us, the farmer actually wanted to leave dog farming behind him and convert his land into a self-sufficient crop field, growing cabbages and other vegetables for his community."
The Humane Society International hopes that soon, they won't have to step in to help anymore. A bill was recently proposed in South Korea to phase out the dog meat industry by 2027. In the meantime, the dogs just rescued are doing well.
"They're young, adorable, and they're adjusting to being a dog for the very first time," said Polak. "They're learning that people are good for the very first time. They're really thriving with all the attention from our team."
Once the dogs complete necessary medical care and shake off some of their anxieties, they'll be distributed to shelters that the Humane Society International partners with in different areas of the U.S. From there, people will be able to adopt them.