By Victoria Espinoza

Ten dogs from South Korea were rescued from certain death this past month after the Little Shelter in Elwood stepped up and gave them a new home.

The dogs arrived at the shelter Monday, Feb. 27, after a long, 14-hour journey by airplane. The dogs were scheduled to be slaughtered for their meat, a common practice in South Korea. However, with the help of a local Korean rescue group, Free Korean Dogs, a transport was arranged for them to come to New York.

Shelter workers carry the dogs into their new home. Photo from Little Shelter

Free Korean Dogs estimates more than 2 million dogs are raised and slaughtered for the Korean meat trade annually. The group often seeks to partner with larger rescue groups like Little Shelter to help get these dogs to safety and give them a chance to be adopted. Little Shelter Executive Director David Ceely said the group has wanted to get involved with this cause for years.

“We knew we wanted to help out with this problem,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s such a growing issue. In the last three to five years it’s really come to light, and as the oldest shelter on Long Island our mission is to help animals locally, however also use our capabilities to help beyond the local level.”

The Little Shelter created a plan called the Passage to Freedom Program, which aims to help dogs throughout the world find a home.

Rowan Daray, marketing coordinator and spokesperson for the Little Shelter said the rescue took a lot of work.

“The rescue was a long process, our team had been working on it for over a month,” he said. “We were communicating with the rescue group and a third party to help us transport the dogs, so responses could be delayed due to time zones, language barriers and just all the steps needed to get the dogs ready for their flight.”

He said once the dogs were on their way everything went smoothly.

The South Korean dogs are between four and 15 pounds, and range in age from 9 months to 3 years. The dogs are mostly small-sized breeds though some are medium. Little Shelter said all of the animals are healthy and friendly dogs that have been socialized prior to receiving their doggie passports.

Ceely said when the dogs first arrived on Long Island they were understandably shaken, but some were more social and resilient than others — for perhaps one specific reason.

“Some people from those countries are not above stealing people’s pets,” Ceely said. “They can easily get a couple of bucks by stealing someone’s dogs … so the dogs that are now licking our hands through the cages, wagging their tails and becoming more outgoing, I suspect they had to be someone’s pet. There’s no way they weren’t.”

Some of the dogs rescued from a slaughterhouse in South Korea and brought to Elwood. Photo from Little Shelter

Before they arrived in New York each dog had a full medical check up and was fixed while in South Korea. As part of the Little Shelter’s protocol the dogs will be kept quarantined for two weeks when they have time to settle down and become familiar with the staff.

So far their adjustment period has been a success, according to Daray.

“The dogs are doing well, many of them are opening up to staff and showing us their personalities,” he said in an email “We have two who love to dance on their hind legs and do ‘happy paws’ for their handlers. Two others are very excited to meet people but will try to walk in between your legs when on leashes, so they can be as close to you as possible.”

Ceely said he expects at least five dogs to be ready to go up for adoption next Monday when the quarantine period is finished.

Little Shelter was asking for donations to help cover the incurred $5,000 of transporting these dogs to safety, and they were able to reach their goal in less than two weeks. If you would like to donate to the cause, go to the Little Shelter, call 631-368-8770 ext. 26 or visit their website at www.littleshelter.com. The Little Shelter is located at 33 Warner Road.

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