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Korean President Rescues Dog From Meat Trade

This is a HUGE step forward 💕

On Wednesday, July 26, a shelter pup with a rough past finally found a loving home — one with a rather illustrious address.

South Korea's newly-elected president Moon Jae-In has adopted a rescue dog named Tory, once a victim of the dog meat trade, sending a message of hope to animal lovers everywhere.

Moon Jae-In adopted the 4-year-old mixed breed from Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE), a group that rescues and rehabilitates abused and neglected animals in South Korea. Tory was pulled from a dog meat farm by CARE two years ago, but had trouble finding a home due to superstitions against his dark coat, reports Yonhap News, an outlet in South Korea. Tory will also be the very first homeless mixed breed to serve as the country’s “first dog.”

Published on the Facebook page of the president's official residence, the Blue House, the adoption announcement shows Tory being hand-delivered into the president’s care with appropriate pomp and circumstance.

Little Tory will be far from lonely at his important political post, as he will be sharing the Blue House with Moon’s 10-year-old Pungsan dog Maru and a rescued shelter cat named Jjing-jjing.

The adoption of Tory stands in direct contrast to Moon’s predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who faced criticism for abandoning her nine Jindo dogs at the Blue House when she was forced from office after a corruption scandal that rocked the country, according to the Korean Herald.

Sadly, animal abandonment is far from abnormal in South Korea. "About one million animals find new owners, but 300,000 are abandoned each year," the president's Facebook announcement stated. "We need to pay more attention to abandoned animals and care for them as a society." In 2015, the number of pets abandoned was estimated to be closer to 800,000.

With Tory's adoption as a pivotal first step, animal welfare activists look forward to Moon Jae-In fulfilling other campaign promises, including a commitment to build playgrounds for pets and feeding facilities for stray cats, reports the Korean Herald.  

During his campaign in early 2017, Moon Jae-In promised to make South Korea better for both animals and humans alike, though he did not pledge to stop the dog meat trade entirely. Animal rights groups are hopeful nonetheless that it could be on the horizon.

"President Moon Jae-In is very aware of the campaigns around the world to ban the dog meat trade in Korea,” Gina Boehler, director of Korean K9 Rescue, a U.S. organization that rehomes dogs rescued from the meat trade, tells The Dodo. “We believe he will push for change and, in time, it will become illegal to raise dogs for consumption in Korea. He has the power to do it."

In some parts of South Korea, dog meat is considered a seasonal delicacy, where old beliefs hold that if prepared correctly, it can have special medicinal properties. There are currently no rules or regulations limiting the farming and consumption of dogs in the country, which harbors an estimated 17,000 dog meat farms where between 2.5 and 10 million dogs are killed annually. The adoption of Tory comes during the height of "Bok nal," the time of year when the majority of dog meat is said to be consumed.

Whatever policies may come, Tory’s prominent position could help change the way stray dogs are viewed in South Korea. "I hope that President Moon Jae-In's adoption of Tory sends a loud message to South Koreans that all dogs are pet dogs,” Boehler says. “We hope this will be a catalyst for a change in mindset, values and compassion and extends to all dogs — even ‘meat dogs’ or strays."

To learn more about how to adopt a dog rescued from the Korean meat trade or to donate, visit Korean K9 Rescue's website here.