After the humane society shut down a dog meat farm in South Korea, about 50 of the 170 canines were brought to Canada, where they will eventually be placed in homes.

The dogs, many of them malnourished and ill or injured, received veterinarian care and convalesced at a temporary shelter in Cambridge, Ont., and are now going to animal shelters in other parts of Ontario and Quebec, where they will be available for adoption.

Though it is legal in South Korea to raise dogs for their meat, Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International Canada, said the dogs at the farm that was shut down were confined in "barren, filthy" wire cages with months of accumulated waste.

JC_NAMYANGJU_79.JPG

Emma, a Tosa dog, and her puppies Ollie and Riley, were found locked in a cage at the farm. (Jean Chung/HSI)

"The dogs were so skinny. They were very rarely getting food and water," she said. "They were covered in open sores all over their body from living on the wire floors.

"They just were suffering so much. They're really frightened, really scared. But we managed to get all 170 out."

Unregulated, legal, industry

Humane Society International said this is the tenth dog meat facility in South Korea closed since 2014. The dog meat industry also exists in other parts of Asia, including China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"It's something that grew out of a tradition a long time ago into a large commercial industry," said Aldworth.

An industry that she described as "completely unregulated" since dogs are not actually considered livestock. She said there are no inspections of dog farms and no regulations that farmers need to adhere to.

Pip and Zinah

These golden retrievers were a rare find on a meat farm. Animals are sometimes taken off the streets or left by people who can no longer care for their pets. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

She admits that while the rescue effort was due to the "horrendous conditions" on the farm in Namyangju, a North American sensitivity to dogs as pets does come into play. 

"Of course, dogs also hold a very special place in our society and increasingly in society in Asia. So the campaign to end the dog meat trade is actually driven by Asian animal protection groups," said Aldworth. 

"International groups [like Humane Society International] are really there to support, to help with closures of farms, to bring dogs overseas when local placement can't be arranged and to create international pressure on local governments to end this horrendous industry."

Spotlight on South Korea in 2018

Rebecca Aldworth

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International in Canada, says the dog meat industry in South Korea is completely unregulated. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Of the estimated 30 million dogs raised and slaughtered for meat across Asia, 2.5 million are in South Korea, according to Humane Society International.

With the winter Olympics less than two months away in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Aldworth hopes their efforts will pressure the government there to shut down the dog meat trade entirely — but she recognizes that means helping individual farmers find new work. 

She said the humane society is working with farmers to transition them into financial opportunities outside the dog meat trade, such as berry farming. 

With files from the CBC's Joe Pavia