Ottawa

Dogs saved from slaughter at meat festival in China make new home in Ottawa

After travelling halfway around the world, 10 dogs rescued from a meat festival in China are getting settled at foster homes in Ottawa.

'They're really the ambassadors for the millions of dogs that are killed every year in China'

The president of BARK says the dogs will need special care and attention before they are ready for adoption in the new year. (Robyn Miller)

After travelling halfway around the world, 10 dogs rescued from a meat festival in China are getting settled at foster homes in Ottawa.

The dogs are part of a larger group of 110 dogs that arrived in Toronto on Thursday night after being rescued by Humane Society International late in the spring while en route to the Yulin dog meat festival.

The organization worked with partner charities in China to intercept the dogs, according to Gabriel Wildgen, a campaign manager with Humane Society International Canada.

The festival has been a target of animal rights activists since its inauguration. It officially launched in 2009 as a way to mark the summer solstice in China's Guangxi province.

Wildgen said not all the dogs came from the same place, but that activists would often block trucks headed for the festival and pressure the dog meat traders to give up at least some of the animals before letting them continue on their way.

The dogs seemed very quiet when they arrived in Carp, after a long few days of travel. (Robyn Miller)

"It's important to remember that the dogs that we've rescued from these trucks are the lucky few," Wildgen said.

"They're really the ambassadors for the millions of dogs that are killed every year in China for the dog meat trade, and these dogs endure the worst kind of suffering imaginable."

Ottawa charity helps rehouse dogs

On Friday, after dealing with months of red tape, the dogs destined for Ottawa homes arrived in the rural community of Carp where foster families were waiting to bring them home.

Other dogs from the group stayed in Toronto or went on to Montreal.

"They were held up by smog in Beijing. Then it was going to be the next day and the next day, so everybody is pretty hyped up now. Everybody is really excited about getting their dogs," said Sharon McKeil, president of the Bytown Association for Rescued Canines, also known as BARK.

Sharon McKeil is president of BARK, an all breed rescue charity in Ottawa that's been operating for about 15 years. (Robyn Miller)

McKeil said her charity doesn't normally take dogs from other countries because there are so many local dogs that need care, but that this was an exception because of the good work Humane Society International does in Canada.

"We want these dogs to settle in. They don't even know what being a pet is yet," said McKeil.

"They don't know what it's like to be treated like a normal dog — they have to learn all these things. When they do learn them and when they're ready then we'll put them up for adoption."

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