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Dogs rescued from meat trade arrive in Southern Oregon

By Ryan Pfeil Mail Tribune (Medford, Ore.)

MEDFORD, Ore. – The new digs for eight dogs that arrived at the Southern Oregon Humane Society last weekend include amenities the pooches never have had before.

“They’ve never had beds before. Their entire life,” says Kailani Miranda, SoHumane animal behavior supervisor. “Never had blankets or anything.”

The quality of life for canines Maverick, Renata, Hugo, Klaus, Bashful, Tommy, Darby and Petunia certainly has improved. They were recently rescued from the dog meat trade thriving in several Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Vietnam, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.

The AWI estimates millions of dogs are killed for food annually, typically kept in poor, unhygienic living conditions such as “cramped rusty, cages stacked on top of each other” as they wait, the website says. Many of the animals die from dehydration, disease, broken bones or suffocation.

The Thailand-based Soi Dog Foundation, which partnered with SoHumane for the rescue, has a primary mission of capturing stray dogs, then sterilizing and vaccinating them before release, a method of controlling overpopulation.

“By reducing the number of unwanted animals being born, the problem of overpopulation decreases and the unnecessary suffering of animals ceases,” the Soi Dog website reads.

But the organization also operates a shelter and animal hospital, which takes in animals that have been abused or are unable to survive on their own because of age or illness.

“They rehabilitate the dogs, bring them to their facility, get them ready to be adopted and then they adopt them out all over Canada and the United States,” SoHumane director Karen Evans says.

SoHumane got involved with the rescue at its annual Toast for Tails fundraiser event, where Ashland residents Jeff Rinkoff and Janis Rosenthal donated the airfare portion of a travel package that brought in $7,550 for the organization. The winning bidder, Las Vegas resident Heather Heath, was able to travel to Thailand, where the Soi Dog Foundation is based. Heath picked up and “chaperoned” the dogs back to the San Francisco airport, where SoHumane officials waited to greet the dogs and transport them back to the Rogue Valley. They arrived Saturday.

“That was really exciting,” Miranda says. “They spent way too long in those crates. The flight got canceled, and they had to stay an extra night, so to get them and get them safe and comfortable, it felt really good to be able to get them off the plane.”

Rosenthal got involved in doing her part to fight the dog meat trade after seeing a TV news story with graphic images of dogs being weighed before they were sent to slaughter.

“I felt like the blood drained out of me. It was the most horrific thing I have ever seen,” Rosenthal said.

Miranda said the animals are doing well. Some, like Maverick and Klaus, are more shy, while others, like Renata and Hugo, come right up to their cages, noses twitching and tongues lolling greedily for kisses.

“They’re a little bit nervous and scared, but most of them are very, very friendly,” she says, adding they will be ready to adopt soon.

SoHumane’s Saving Train program has rescued dogs from high-kill shelters in California and Hawaii. In effect since 2006, the program has saved 7,590 dogs. But this is the first time it has received animals from Thailand.

“This is our first experience with it, and we’re delighted to be part of it,” Evans says.

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