US animal welfare group Animal Rescue Media Education (ARME) is misleading donors and several major news outlets about how the famous dog Chi Chi was rescued from South Korea.
President and Chief Executive of ARME Shannon Keith told a graphic story to press about the horrid conditions that Chi Chi was apparently living under.
These outlets and the public have all been duped. In this elaborate story ARME state that Chi Chi was born for dog meat.
“She was kept alive in immensely cruel conditions all while her body was being prepped to one day be considered ready for slaughter and sold into the dog meat trade,” ARME state on both the “ARME of Chi Chi” Facebook page and their website.
“During this time her flesh was believed to become more tender, by binding her legs together and hanging her upside down while being tortured day in and day out. All this was done in darkness. She was beaten and felt nothing but extreme pain and terror. She was hung by her legs for so long and so tight that the binding starting entering her flesh. Her legs became so badly infected that her flesh rotted off her bones. At which she was no longer of use as “meat,” because her “meat” had been rotting, and therefore she was thrown away in a trash bag and left to die,” the post goes on to say before asking for donations.
The real story of Chi Chi is nothing like what ARME speculate.
Chi Chi was found on a country side road a few hours drive South of Seoul January 6 by a good samaritan who thought Chi Chi was dead.
This samaritan called the provincial council who sent a staff person to collect a dead dog that was put in a garbage bag.
However, Chi Chi was not dead. Chi Chi sat up in the back seat of a car while being transported by a council worker.
The worker called Nabiya Cat Shelter, a South Korean shelter that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes dogs and cats.
All of Chi Chi’s legs were badly injured with lacerations to the bone indicating that her legs had been strung together very tightly and for a long period of time.
“She almost died,” Yu Ju Yeon, the director of Nabiya Cat Shelter said.
“We brought her to a vet in Seoul and were taking really good care of her.”
Chi Chi’s legs were amputated and Nabiya’s staff tried to find prosthetic legs in the hope that Chi Chi would be able to run again. Their attempts failed.
Nabiya paid for all of Chi Chi’s medical bills while she stayed in Irion Hospital for two months.
During this time they were unsuccessful in finding a suitable home locally for Chi Chi as dogs with disabilities are rarely adopted in Korea.
“We gave up on finding an adoption place in Korea,” Yeon said. “So we decided that it was better to find an adoption place in America. ARME contacted us and helped us.”
As a result, Chi Chi had a chance to live in a loving home in the US rather than become one of the many dogs with deformities that are either in shelters in Korea or euthanised.
Yeon personally took Chi Chi to LA in the US and met with Shanon Keith, President of the board and Chief Executive of ARME.
“Everybody was asking me about if Chi Chi was found in the meat market so I said no, no, no! I never mentioned about the meat market,” Yeon said.
A staff person at Nabiya had previously speculated with Shannon Keith that Chi Chi could have been from the dog meat trade, a possibility that ARME chose to take as fact and advertise widely without verification.
Yeon said she had not seen the videos put up on ARME’s webpages so was unaware that they had been stating Chi Chi was from a dog farm.
“I just want the best for Chi Chi and thought ARME would do the right thing by her.”
Those who have investigated the dog meat trade in South Korea recognise ARME’s story about Chi Chi to be false.
President of CARE AJ Garcia went undercover in the dog meat trade in Korea for 18 months and has visited over 250 dog farms and slaughterhouses.
Garcia said he did not believe Chi Chi was hung upside down by any one in the dog meat trade despite having witnessed dogs hung upside down after being electrocuted and their throats cut as part of the slaughter process.
“That was usually between 5 and 10 minutes, so they can be bled out,” he said.
“The most common slaughter method is electrocution followed by slitting of the throat. I have never seen a dog hung upside-down for long periods of time.”
Chi Chi was found with dead tissue surrounding lacerations in her legs signifying her legs were tied for a prolonged period.
“The slaughterhouse would not waste time doing this to a single dog plus if the dog was hung upside down for that long the dog would certainly have died,” Garcia said.
ARME is part of a larger problem for local animal welfare groups in Korea according to the director of Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary and rescuekorea.org.
Leo Mendoza has worked in animal rescue for a decade and said he noticed the emergence of a rescue pattern that caused concern.
“Foreign-based rescue organisations that have not had a visible presence in Korea are coming to rescue an abused dog or multiple dogs, usually from the meat trade. They come with their own media blitz, that attracts attention from the general public,” Mendoza said.
While Mendoza is thrilled to see a dog find a new and happy home he is concerned by the media and marketing that these organisations present to the public.
“Quite often they make vague declarations of taking steps to combat the dog meat trade, at the same time they request donations,” he said.
“The troubling part is that these organisations show no real understanding of the local issues and have no real strategy to combat the dog meat trade.”
“They are simply generating outrage towards Korean culture, and of course, generating donations from people who are misled into believing that cash in these organizations’ pockets will directly translate to effective action against the dog meat trade.”
Like many groups fighting against the dog meat trade, Mendoza encourages people to adopt dogs from Korea.
“I just hope to see responsible stewardship of resources intended to protect all dogs trapped in this inhumane system,” he said.
Yeon shares this sentiment and wants to ensure that all donations received go to Chi Chi’s care.
“ARME is getting donation[s]. But is kind of a little wrong the way they are getting donations.”
Yeon is also upset with ARME for not acknowledging them for the work they did with Chi Chi prior to arriving in Korea.
In press meetings, reports and social media pages ARME has not specifically mentioned that Nabiya rescued Chi Chi nor have they offered any strategy to combat the dog meat trade aside from requesting donations on the “Chi Chi of ARME” Facebook page.
ARME presently contract Ryan Moore from RM Social Media & Fundraising to manage their social media and run their fundraising campaigns including Chi Chi’s.
Moore alleged that the South Korean rescue group gave them that information and that they credited “the South Korean Organisation” by putting their logo on the cover photo of the Facebook page and at the end of one of their videos about Chi Chi.
Nabiya’s logo appears for less than a second on one of the many videos done about Chi Chi on their website and once on the now deleted Facebook page but is less than a quarter of the size of ARME’s and no explanation or mention of Nabiya appears anywhere else.
“As I stated we paid to bring Chi Chi to the US and found her a home and we’re paying for her ongoing care,” Moore stated in a Facebook conversation before asking me to contact Shannon Keith their Chief Executive to answer further questions.
At the time of publication Keith had not responded to questions sent to her work email or her Facebook.
Instead of a reply, the Facebook page titled “Chi Chi of ARME” had been removed.
ARME’s most recent form 990 from 2013, submitted to the Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service, states that they had revenue of more than US$1.019 million and had revenue of nearly US$427,000 that year after negating all expenses.
Staff salaries totalled US$216,133 of which Shannon Keith’s salary was US$76,164. In addition to this, fundraising expenses totalled US$68,668.
Chi Chi’s adopter Richard Howells did not respond to a Facebook message by the time of publication.
Several groups in South Korea, including Nabiya, want ARME to be transparent about the amount of donations received recently, how much of that money will be spent on Chi Chi’s care, and whether any surplus will be distributed to animal welfare groups in South Korea who actively fight the dog meat trade on a daily basis.
Most of these animal welfare groups operate on a minuscule budget, run a deficit, and are not paid a wage.
Should you want to donate to South Korean animal welfare groups please do so:
1. Nabiya Cat Shelter http://www.nabiya.org/index.php
For information regarding volunteer work, foster, adoption and shelter visitation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
우리은행 (Woori Bank)
2. Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) http://www.careanimalrights.org/#!home/mainPage
3. Busan Abadoned Pet Sanctuary (BAPS) http://shindogs.org/
As of Friday March 25 the Facebook page for Chi Chi has been reactivated.