JANESVILLE - Nine dogs in Janesville likely ate their first actual dog food this week after nearly being eaten themselves.
The dogs were rescued from a South Korean farm that raised canines to be eaten. The dogs were placed throughout the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Fifty of them ended up in Wisconsin, and nine are currently in Janesville at the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, Executive Director Brett Frazier said.
The dogs arrived at the Waukesha County Airport on Monday. Shelter staff transported the nine dogs to the humane society, where they'll be prepared to find their forever home.
"Even just being in the kennel is a vast improvement," Frazier said.
While at the South Korean farm the dogs were kept in rusted and jagged wire cages and were fed soup and water, Frazier said. He said the Janesville shelter was contacted about two weeks ago by the Humane Society of the United States, which the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is not affiliated with, about taking in some of the dogs. The organization works with the South Korean government so when farmers who raise dogs would like to shut down their businesses, the organization will rescue the dogs and help provide other products for the farmers to grow.
"They're now here at the humane society getting treatment, care and, for one of the first times in their lives, love," Frazier said.
Diseases are also not an issue, as veterinarians and other experts have been involved in the process from the start, Frazier said. He said each dog received a veterinary inspection to leave South Korea and to enter the United States. They also were tested for sickness like H3N2 dog flu, and all of the dogs tested negative.
All of the dogs were vaccinated in South Korea against H3N2 and received their rabies, DHPP (distemper, adenovirusm, parainfluenza and hepatitis) and corona virus vaccines. The dogs were then quarantined on the farm for 30 days.
"All that happened before we were involved," Frazier said.
Frazier said dog meat has turned into more of a delicacy in South Korea. However, farmers have made their livelihood on raising canines for their meat, so the transition to growing other products can be difficult.
He said many of the dogs are a mix of Korean Jindo dogs, though there was a wide variety of breeds at the shelter, including a greyhound. Different dog breeds may end up on a farm, because their owners abandoned them.
Though the humane society has transported dogs to the shelter domestically, this is the first time the shelter has participated in an international transport.
Frazier said residents have been asking about why the shelter is helping dogs in another country when there are dogs to help in the county.
While Frazier said there are dogs in need of help in the county and the United States, he believes the shelter is addressing the needs in the community.
"We're fortunate in Wisconsin and in Rock County that we don't have a dog overpopulation problem," Frazier said. "Unlike cats, who breed in the wild and create hundreds of unwanted and unplanned litters of kittens each season right here in Rock County, dogs are generally not breeding rampantly and the number of unwanted litters coming to our shelter is nearly zero each year."
He also said that every year the shelter helps rescue approximately 300 dogs and puppies from other parts of the country where dog overpopulation is a concern.
The dogs at the Janesville shelter all range from about 2 to 5 years old. On Tuesday the dogs appeared to be in good health.
Frazier said the shelter is giving the dogs time to be acclimated to their new surroundings, and humane society staff will begin to evaluate the dogs' temperament on Thursday.
He said the shelter will have to monitor the dogs' nutrition, socialization and behavior. Many of the dogs have likely not had much human contact and may have never even been walked on a leash.
"Now that the dogs are in our care, our veterinary and animal care teams are working to address whatever issues they may have, but mostly those are psychological," Frazier said. "Several of the dogs are happy and, well, dogs. But a couple will need some time to recover."
With the trauma these dogs have faced, Frazier isn't sure how long it will take for the dogs to ready to be adopted. However, like every dog that comes into the humane society without a home, adoption is the end goal.
"Nine people will have a great story about where they got their dog soon," Frazier said.