There are rumours circulating in Korea that some of the 80 “meat” dogs Humane Society international (HSI) imported to the U.S. this year were euthanized, that these dogs caused the H3N2 virus outbreak, that HSI paid The Wall Street Journal for positive press, and HSI is only rescuing Korean dogs to raise funds.
Investigations by The Korea Observer reveal that these rumours have little or no basis.
Discussion on social media implied that some of HSI rescue dogs have been euthanized – a claim which HSI vehemently rejects.
“Not a single dog has been euthanized and the accusation that this would even be a possibility is absurd,” a HSI spokesperson said.
Allison Lindquist, East Bay SPCA CEO, said HSI and its partners have not euthanized any dogs.
“HSI would not spend this money and resources to get them here just to get them euthanized. We as the partners have taken in these dogs have no intention of [euthanizing].”
The Korea Observer can confirm that, based on the number of dogs received by the U.S. shelters, the number that has been adopted out, and the number still waiting for adoption, that no dogs have been euthanized.
HSI has successfully re-homed 55 of the 80 dogs rescued from South Korean dog meat farms this year.
Thirty two of the 57 dogs from Hongseong have been adopted and 25 are still at HSI’s partner shelters or with foster families.
Many of those yet to be adopted are heart-worm-positive or in need extra care to help them recover and adjust to life in the U.S.
They have not euthanized any dogs or paid for external media coverage.
RE: HSI’s responsibility for the dog flu epidemic in the U.S.
The Korea Observer reported April 13 that more than 1,000 dogs in Chicago and surrounding areas contracted strains of influenza A H3N2 virus found among dog populations in South Korea and isolated parts of southern China.
Scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin said this was the first time the rare canine flu has been detected in North America.
“The outbreak in Chicago suggests a recent introduction of the H3N2 virus from Asia,” scientists said.
Other media outlets followed with stories on April 14 and several commenters speculated, without evidence, that HSI was responsible for the outbreak.
Rumors of these dogs bringing infectious diseases to the U.S. circulated in comments sections, on social media, and have been getting traction on blogs.
Investigations by The Korea Observer reveal these rumors have no merit.
The 57 dogs in question were all housed together on the dog farm in Korea with no dogs entering or leaving the farm from at least December 15, 2014 until they flew out between March 16 and 19.
The vet, Dr. Kim, confirmed that no dogs showed any signs of canine influenza during his initial examination.
“Any dogs showing any signs of infection would have clearly been picked up from his examination of the dogs on February 9 and reassessment prior to flight on March 16,” a HSI spokesperson said.
An independent vet, Dr Yang Kyoung-mo, said that canine influenza virus is detectable by vets using simple procedures.
“Almost all dogs exposed to canine influenza virus will become infected, and the majority (80%) of infected dogs develop flu-like illness,” Dr Yang said.
The dogs were not treated against canine influenza A because vets determined the dogs did not present any flu-like symptoms.
As a standard precaution, the dogs were vaccinated against canine parvovirus, canine corona virus, and rabies.
All the dogs were also treated with broad-spectrum dewormers and heartworm prevention.
If the dogs showed any signs of influenza they would have been treated for it and quarantined prior to being transported to the U.S.
Leo Mendoza, Manager at Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary, said it would not be accurate to assign causality to the existing influenza A outbreak in the U.S. without a proper trace of the patients.
“While the outbreak is clearly of the strain found in Korea, there must be consideration given to the thousands of dogs that travel from South Korea to North America every year. It is best to withhold judgment on the relation of the HSI import and the current outbreak.”
AJ Garcia, director of Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) said that HSI would not have transported dogs if they had a virus that could infect others animals.
“Influenza stream H3N2 is more likely to have come from an individual transporting their dog back to the U.S. Sometimes people rush things and don’t take all the proper steps to make sure their pet is healthy and okay to be brought to another country.”
Individual animal owners are not subject to the same scrutiny as large organisations rescuing dogs who are in the public and media spotlight.
RE: Allegedly paying press for media coverage
Several animal welfare activists allege that HSI paid for press coverage.
“HSI must have made insane amount[s] of funds off the Korean dogs to be able to run an article like this on no less than the Wall Street Journal,” a well-positioned animal activist writes.
Alastair Gale, journalist for the Wall Street Journal and writer of the article that was used to support the wild claims, said they were not paid for positive press by HSI.
“Of course that is wrong. The Wall Street Journal never accepts payments for coverage,” Alastair said.
HSI also dispute this claim.
“The Wall Street Journal is a premiere news outlet that does not take payment for its articles, including their latest on the Korean dog meat issue and HSI’s campaign.”
RE: HSI’s exploitation of meat dogs to fundraise
One of the most circulated claims is that HSI only rescues these dogs from South Korea to fundraise.
HSI has raised $US9,289,762 last financial year according to information provided by independent NGO www.give.org.
Of these funds, nearly $US 8 million was spent on programs.
That figure is not split into specific programs such as saving dogs in South Korea, China, Vietnam and so on.
It cost nearly $US85,000 for HSI to rescue, transport, provide healthcare, re-train and re-home the 57 dogs in this particular rescue.
“Humane Society International has invested hugely in this project and associated campaign- far more than has been fundraised,” a HSI spokesperson told The Korea Observer.
It is impossible to tell how much revenue this rescue attracted but without donors HSI could not rescue any animals.
HSI have also been actively working against the dog trade in Vietnam and China.
In August last year Chinese activists, some of whom are partnered with HSI, rescued 3,280 dogs on trucks bound for slaughterhouses.
HSI, via their China Specialist Dr Peter Li, funded the purchase of emergency supplies, sent 10 Chinese activists from VShine Group to help the rescue operation, and provide post-rescue care in a Beijing shelter.
HSI are currently working in partnership with Chinese groups Capital Animal Welfare Association and VShine Group who intercepted a truck with 153 dogs headed to slaughter on Friday.
Funds raised goes toward a variety of rescues and animal welfare actions.
Leo Mendoza said Koreans sometimes take negative press about the dog meat industry as a national pride issue.
“They are naturally attacking HSI for ‘fundraising.’ HSI is right, fundraising is needed, and putting specific dogs’ faces out there raises money—something every charity organization does, no matter the area,” Mendoza said.
He said that he supports dog rescue regardless of where the dogs are from.
He, however, expressed concerns over some of HSI’s marketing after they saved 23 dogs from a farmer earlier this year.
“I am made uncomfortable by the overreaching claims of grandeur made in this case regarding the closure of dog raising at the blueberry farm. There’s no way they can guarantee it will remain closed.”
Mendoza also takes issue on the use of the word “compensation.”
“They bought the dogs and they paid way more than those dogs would have cost at market,” he said.
A HSI spokesperson said they assisted the farmer transition to a full blueberry farm and the money given was for that purpose.
“HSI does not engage in compensation to farmers for their animals directly, but rather the closing of their dog meat farms for good and movement over to an alternative, humane livelihood,” they said.
“By creating models for change by closing dog farms and supporting the implementation of humane alternative businesses, we can develop a realistic and economically-viable proposal to present to the Korean public and government to support a phase-out plan for the dog meat industry.”
All eighty of the dogs removed from the two Korean dog farms (23 from Ilsan in January and 57 from Hongseong in March) were flown to the U.S. where they were initially received by a network of HSI’s partner shelters.
At these facilities, the dogs were all provided with much-needed veterinary care, behavioural assessments and treatment or care for physical and psychological trauma.
These shelters are experts among dog care and adoption, and take the time needed to evaluate each Korean dog and find the most suitable family for adoption.
Via the direct adoption of these dogs, HSI dispels the notion of a “meat dog” by highlighting the plight of these dogs and using them as ambassadors for those still on farms, proving that all dogs are equally capable of becoming “pet dogs”.