Minnesotans line up to adopt puppies saved from overseas meat farms

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Farm Forum

Dogs from overseas meat farms once destined for slaughter are now finding homes as house pets in Minnesota.

The Animal Humane Society has accepted 30 dogs — mostly puppies rescued from South Korean meat farms that have been closed.

Most are part Korean Jindo, a breed not common here, but Minnesotans are clamoring to adopt the medium-sized spitz-type dogs, which were developed for hunting and are known for their loyalty.

The nonprofit has fielded some questions about whether the effort is worth the expense, but spokesman Zach Nugent said they are partnering with well-known animal activist Nami Kim, working on the ground in South Korea, and another California nonprofit called Lucky Chi Dog Rescue that’s footing the travel bill. Darlene Hilz, co-founder of Lucky Chi, said it costs between $300 and $500 to transport a dog to the United States.

“From our standpoint this is not taking away any resources from any animal in Minnesota or animals in the United States,” Nugent said.

The Animal Humane Society is supported by private donors and adoption fees. Of the $15.2 million spent last year, about 74 percent goes to its programs.

“Our role is getting them into loving homes. There are homes here,” Nugent said.

Minnesotans have a soft spot for orphan pets.

Twin Cities residents adopted 19,000 pets from the Humane Society last year — nearly twice the 11,000 animals that folks surrendered. For many years, the group has worked with overcrowded shelters in other states. It started accepting the dogs from South Korea in August.

Minneapolis newlyweds Kate and Andrew Lutgen waited outside the Humane Society in Golden Valley in August to adopt a female Jindo puppy with cream-colored fur they saw on the nonprofit’s website.

“It was just the cutest face I’ve ever seen. Her eyes looked really kind and sweet and really lovable,” Kate Lutgen said. “We looked into the breed and the story, and we thought, ‘Wow, this would be a perfect dog for us.’ “

They ended up adopting the puppy, which they named Brie after a humane society staffer.

Lutgen, who had fostered a dog from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, said she brought the puppy home with the understanding there could be issues. Instead, it’s been a fairy tale love story.

“I never felt more like a celebrity. Everyone was coming up to her for the first few weeks. She was so small and adorable,” Lutgen said.

Knowing her dog may have been destined for life in a small metal cage and then slaughter, Lutgen said she’s become a bit of an advocate for the program.

“She is absolutely part of the family. We would absolutely love to do it again,” Lutgen said.

There are an estimated 17,000 dog meat farms in Korea.

In recent years, nonprofits including Kim’s organization have worked to buy out some of those farmers and help them find a new livelihood, including blueberry or pepper farming.

The nonprofits then looked for homes for the dogs from those closed farms. Shelters across the country have untold numbers of these dogs.

Humane Society International, an arm of the Humane Society of the United States, has closed five Korean meat farms since 2015 and brought 525 dogs to the United States and Canada for adoption.

“There is a strong misconception that these dogs are somehow different from everyday dogs that we share our homes with. They are good dogs in bad situations,” said Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International, based in Washington, D.C. The organization is not affiliated with the Animal Humane Society in the Twin Cities.

O’Meara has traveled to South Korea as the meat farms have been closed.

“We were surprised with how welcomed we were on these farms when we started going to South Korea. They were quite anxious to get out of the trade. All said they don’t have an alternative livelihood,” O’Meara said.

Nugent said there has been a healthy debate on social media about campaigns against overseas dog meat farms given that Americans consume so much meat. Nugent said one significant distinction is that on some dog meat farms, the animals are tortured before butchering based on the belief that it enhances the meat.

The Pegg family of Crystal adopted one of the Korean puppies that arrived in Minnesota in late September.

“For my husband, it pulled at his heartstrings — the circumstance of where he came from,” Kate Pegg said. “We are glad to be the ones to care for him and be his forever home.”