Stories

Korean K9 Rescue – Dogs of the Meat Trade

May 6, 2019 Tina Khanolkar

“Gina is Korean K9 Rescue. She is the face, she is the name, and she is the one leading the charge because she knows these dogs are worth it.”

Gina Boehler always loved dogs. Since her childhood, she loved animals and she was especially fond of dogs because she felt that they understood our energy and emotions. She recognized that dogs were dependent on human care and that we needed to speak up for them. Therefore, she decided to get involved in rescue to be a voice for them. Her personal rescue journey officially started in 2009 when she began rescuing homeless dogs and cats in New York City. She eventually expanded to helping thousands of stray dogs and high-kill shelter dogs located in southern states (Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas). The majority of her efforts were on behalf of other rescue groups and shelters back then.

Years ago, Boehler began learning about the realities of the dog meat trade. There are approximately 17,000 known dog meat farms in South Korea, but there could potentially be even more that are hidden from the public eye. The farms range from having a few dogs to having more than thousands of dogs. The dogs at these farms eat rotten food waste and live in wire cages with no protection from harsh weather conditions. In the majority of cases, the day that the dogs' paws touch the ground for the first time is the same day that they are dragged off to the slaughterhouse. There is also a belief that the dog meat will have greater medicinal benefits for human consumption if the dog experiences torture prior to being slaughtered. Some examples of the torture techniques are electrocution, hanging, and boiling before death. During the summer months eating a soup called “Boshintang” aka dog meat soup is believed to bring healing properties, and stamina in men. These beliefs are scientifically unproven and claim benefits that are based on superstition at the expense of the dogs suffering. A dog meat eating festival is held during the summer months where 80% of the dogs being raised on farms are consumed. Although Boshintang and “Gae Soju” (dog meat juice, an elixir) is consumed all year round.

Contrary to popular belief, Boehler also learned that no dog is exempt from becoming a victim of the dog meat trade. It is often assumed that Nureongi or Hwang-gu (known as “yellow dog”) is the main type of dog bred for consumption in South Korea. However, the reality is that dog meat farms have all kinds of dogs from different backgrounds. This includes stolen companion dogs that were previously pets, purebred dogs from puppy mills, stray litters, and even the Jindo dog breed (the beloved national dog breed in South Korea). To make matters worse, Boehler discovered that the adoption rate was less than 20% in South Korea which made her realize that even the rescued dogs rarely would get their “second chance” if they stayed there.

Boehler had to do something. As a Korean American, she felt compelled to get involved because she knew that “culture” was not an excuse for the abuse that the dogs go through in South Korea. Within months, Boehler created Korean K9 Rescue, brought together a group of like-minded volunteers, launched social media accounts, and had 6 rescue puppies from South Korea brought to NYC for Korean K9 Rescue’s first-ever adoption event. She was determined to get these innocent dogs into loving homes and NYC’s dog-loving community was receptive to her mission. Korean K9 Rescue grew exponentially from there… and now the rescue group has adopted out over 750 dogs from South Korea since starting in June of 2017.

Korean K9 Rescue is a non-profit, no-kill 501(c)(3) dog rescue organization and it is known to be a very special rescue group in both NYC and South Korea. Boehler and her Korean partners Band For Animal, established "safe-house," a state-of-the-art quarantine facility in Ilsan, Korea for the dogs to decompress and relax before leaving for New York. The two rescue groups work together to practice safe quarantine, vaccinations, and health screenings before the dogs are transported to NYC. After the dogs arrive in NYC, Boehler and team work hard to rehabilitate these fearful and traumatized dogs who come from horrific situations that would make it difficult to ever trust humans again. During their stay with Korean K9 Rescue, all of the dogs are crate-trained, wear back-ups on their collars, and eat a healthy raw diet. Korean K9 Rescue spares no expense, even if it means a hefty food or vet bill every month. Each dog also has specific needs that deserve to be met so that the dogs can truly get their second chance. Therefore, Boehler makes every effort to set each dog and adopter up for success. This includes having a thorough adoption screening process, ensuring that adopters possess the proper dog supplies, requiring adopters to enroll in training, and being responsive to any questions that adopters have along the way.

What makes the team’s efforts so rewarding is that Korean K9 Rescue has a strong alumni community. Once you adopt one of their dogs, you become a part of the Korean K9 Rescue family. There are parties, reunions, newsletters, private social media groups, and even more that is geared towards the alumni. Boehler and team also love giving shout-outs to their alumni, such as through featuring a different alumnus in their blogs and event flyers every week. It is a great way to recognize their wonderful community and to catch up with individual alumni each week. In the end, each adopter directly plays a crucial role in spreading awareness about the dog meat trade and the adoption movement.

This year, Korean K9 Rescue will open an Animal Hospital with Band For Animal near Seoul. It will offer low-cost vet services to rescuers and the public, state-of-the-art quarantine services, and most importantly, launch a spay/neuter campaign targeting the rural and stray population in Korea --- the first of its kind in South Korea!

Boehler states “The work of bringing rescued dogs from Korea to New York is all done by the caring and compassionate citizens of Korea who are dog lovers, they are the driving force behind our rescue. Without these volunteers in Korea, we would not exist. It is important to remember the rescuers cries for help, because they speak up for the dogs. It is important to honor their hard work for these loving dogs. Korea is slowly changing, someday dog meat will be illegal, until then KK9R will do all we can to help the dogs and rescuers because it’s the right thing to do.”

Do you want to join the Korean K9 Rescue family and help change the lives of these innocent dogs? The team is always looking for  monthly sponsors for each dog, donors, volunteers, fosters, adopters. If you are interested in making a difference, please check out www.koreank9rescue.org for more information!

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