April 19, 2017
A little help from our friends
Rescued animals find homes thanks to our Emergency Placement Partners
by Karen E. Lange
In early January, Adam Parascandola stood in the chilly air of Wonju, South Korea, by a row of barren wire-floored cages filled with barking dogs. An elderly couple who raised dogs for meat had at last agreed to turn over their 200 animals to Humane Society International and let the cages be demolished, signing a contract not to restart a similar operation.
Parascandola, HSI’s director of animal protection and disaster response, looked into a video camera and prepared to go live on Facebook. The effort’s success—getting the dogs new homes and drawing more international attention to the Korean dog meat trade—depended on people half a world away.
As 200,000 viewers tuned in, Parascandola held up a little tawny terrier mix with tangled fur, whom he had named Annie. Judging by her size and breed, she was probably an unwanted pet dropped off at the dog meat farm. “She’s shivering. She’s matted. She’s cold,” Parascandola said. “She’s just waiting to be somebody’s best friend.”
Annie would get that chance thanks to a network of nearly 300 shelters and rescues in the United States. These Emergency Placement Partners (EPPs) enable The HSUS and HSI to rescue scores of animals at once and carry them and their stories to shelters and rescues across the U.S. After an international rescue, HSI brings dogs to the U.S. and the partners transport them the rest of the way. For domestic rescues, EPPs may even respond in the field alongside The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team. Together, the team and EPPs transport rescued animals, and then the EPPs work for weeks with individual animals, getting them ready for adoption through medical treatment, spaying/neutering and socialization. The Wonju dogs would go to partners in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., and 16 cities in Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Together with a rescue in late March, this would raise the number of dogs HSI has saved from Korean farms to more than 800 and expand awareness of the dog meat trade.
EPPs “are the backbone of our animal rescue response,” says Kim Alboum, director of the program at The HSUS. “This giant, cohesive group of animal shelters is making things happen.”
Although more and more people in South Korea disagree with eating dogs, there are not many willing to adopt dog meat survivors, who they consider different from the kind of animals people keep as pets, says Kelly O’Meara, HSI director of companion animals. So the EPP network is vital for helping farmers transition out of the dog meat trade and demonstrating to South Koreans that the dogs are wanted as pets. For shelters and rescues, dogs brought in through the EPP program get coverage in newspapers, on social media and on television. That brings in adopters, not only for the just-arrived rescues, but for all the animals.
Immediately after the first five of 24 Wonju dogs arrived at Tulsa Humane Society, people who saw the news on Facebook were contacting the shelter to adopt, though it would take some time before the animals were ready. Tulsa Humane became a partner in 2013—it regularly handles large numbers of animals from The HSUS/HSI and other disaster rescues and seizures.
But until January, it had never before received dogs from a Korean meat farm. Shelter manager Evan Fadem had been inspired by a video of Korean rescues who went to the San Francisco SPCA, another EPP. Gina Gardner, president of the Tulsa shelter’s board of directors, asked Alboum for some of the Wonju dogs. The first of them flew into Dallas Fort Worth, a four-hour drive from Tulsa. A staff member made the first of several evening runs to pick them up.
The EPPS are “the backbone of our animal rescue response. This giant, cohesive group of animal shelters is making things happen.” —Kim Alboum, director of the HSUS Emergency Placement Partners program
There was Annie, as sweet as she appeared with Parascandola, but now in the arms of Fadem. The little dog would quickly go to a groomer to get her matted fur trimmed and to a veterinarian to be treated for a broken tail and a skin condition. There was Max, a Jindo (Korean breed) mix, who arrived nervous but after a week of gentle, skilled attention was making eye contact and taking treats. And there was Coyah, who cowered in the back of a kennel trembling, head hung in fear and flinching when touched, but finally let volunteers wrap her in a big blanket.
“You see this in puppy mill dogs, where they’re just shut down, staring, like the life has gone from their eyes,” Gardner says. “Our job is to bring back the light and love.” In Washington, D.C., the Humane Rescue Alliance, which has participated in about 100 HSUS/HSI rescues, starting even before the EPP program began, was also engaged in the long, patient work of getting Wonju dogs ready for adoption. The shelter quickly put up two Korean puppies—who seemed not to remember the meat farm—for adoption, but an older Wonju dog, 10-month-old Ava, was hunkered down in the far corner of her kennel, one back leg raised, ready to make a getaway. It’s dogs like her the EPP program is there for, says Alliance chief operating officer Stephanie Shain. “They just need to know they can expect good things from people.”
Before the EPP program was created, Shain, who then worked for the HSUS campaign against puppy mills, remembers developing an informal network of shelters to help with rescues. The EPP program was established because The HSUS needed something bigger and more formal, with shelters and rescues able to handle victims of severe cruelty and neglect who needed time for rehabilitation.
In December 2015, 165 animals, 80 of them dogs, were seized in a neglect and hoarding case in Adams County, Ohio. The Wood County Humane Society in Bowling Green, Ohio—about four hours away—has just 13 kennels and averages about 450 intakes per year, but it used its foster program to open up space so it could take in 18 of the dogs.
The extra work was worth it, says April McCurdy, the shelter’s behavior and training coordinator. “We’re helping others and doing something awesome. All the staff are pretty uplifted.” The first Korean dog in Tulsa to be adopted was Coyah. A retired couple visiting the shelter fell in love with her. Though still anxious, she let them sit beside her. They petted her for about an hour. Then they came back and did the same the next day and the next. Around two and a half weeks after her trans-Pacific flight, Coyah went home. Soon after, she was coming out of her crate to look around and opening up to her new family. Thanks to the EPP program, she was finally being a dog for the first time.