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Dogs saved from slaughter in China

In China, dog meat has been an acceptable cooking ingredient for hundreds of years. So-called wet markets are a source of fresh meat, fish, wild animals and produce for many consumers there, just as farm markets provide opportunities to shop for freshly grown foods here. However, over the last 10 years or so the 10-day Yulin Dog Meat Festival has escalated the interest and demand and led to unscrupulous dealers profiting from the torture and sale of dogs.

In 2016, New York resident Jeffrey Beri founded No Dogs Left Behind (NDLB) to rescue dogs from inhuman treatment in China. Some activists there have also begun protesting and caring for dogs slated for slaughter. Beri’s nonprofit is based in Fort Pierce, Florida, with an office in New York City, and has forged relationships overseas that allow his organization access and advance notice in time to save thousands of dogs and send them to the United States for adoption.

Nicole Kocay of Avon has been looking forward to greeting her rescued dog Buddy, a mixed breed, at JFK airport in October. She became involved with NDLB when the U.S. was first locked down because of the pandemic. Her research into dog rescue opportunities then led her to the nonprofit’s website, which states the organization’s goal is “to rescue dogs who are illegally trafficked and killed for meat in China.” It has been described as “a leader in global animal rescue.”

Kocay also found out that the consumption of dog meat is a practice that still exists in Thailand and Switzerland as well.

“What horrifies me the most is the intentional torture. Because China believes that as the dog is tortured, the adrenalin that is produced is pumped through the body and tenderizes the meat so it tastes better. This happens every day – limbs are torn off, the whole dog is boiled alive, and it is skinned alive. There are no animal laws in China, and they also eat cats,” she said.

When she read about the work of NDLB, Kocay decided she needed to do something to support their efforts, maybe even go to China and save dogs.

“Jeff Beri works with activists there who intercept meat trucks headed to slaughterhouses. The dogs are kept in tiny cages stacked on each other. The dog meat is sold every day to restaurants there. But dog traffickers don’t have the necessary paperwork for them. Many times, the dogs are stolen from people’s yards,” said Kocay.

She adds there are also dog-breeding farms where the animals are “inhumanely treated” and then shipped off for slaughter. When they are transported, they are “not given water nor food,” and they are “not treated for diseases.” The wet market in Wuhan has been linked to the outbreak of COVID.

“Activists there want to stop breeding these dogs because they are breeding coronavirus. These dogs are served in Chinese restaurants. Many people there are against this practice and have their own dogs,” said Kocay.

After a dog is rescued, it is taken to a veterinarian to be vaccinated and dewormed, and then his temperament is evaluated. Because most dogs have been mistreated and even tortured, they are sometimes aggressive in the beginning. During a process of socialization, each one interacts with a caregiver until he trusts humans again.

The dogs are not potty trained and not familiar with living in a home. Each dog leaves with “a doctor’s cheat sheet,” according to Kocay, that contains basic advice on adjustment such as what to do and what not to do.

“Jeffrey Beri is bitter, but does not stop what he’s doing. When [the socialization] is done, the dogs are so happy, they wag their tails, and they want love,” said Kocay.

She is the mother of two small boys – one will be three in November and the other will turn two in February. After applying online to adopt a dog, she spoke with the president of adoption at the organization and found out that Buddy, the dog she selected, has a close friend named Hunter, who is a lab mix. Her thought was to find someone in Avon or nearby who might want to adopt Buddy’s friend so the two dogs could meet up occasionally. Through the Next Door neighborhood app she found Mariya Kozlova, who had been thinking already about adopting a dog and volunteered to take in Hunter.

“I have always been interested in getting a dog. With COVID I am finally home enough to take care of one. I need a dog to have a reason to leave the house. I need him more than he needs me,” said Kozlova, who works from her Avon home for Disney.

She was not taken back when she read about the work of NDLB as she was already familiar with the Yulin festival.

“It’s heartbreaking [how dogs are treated there]. Adopting a dog is always risky on some level because there could be trauma, but that should not dissuade anyone,” she said.

Kozlova was even more certain she was making the right decision when she saw a video of Buddy and Hunter playing together.

“They looked healthy and they have a great bond. I did not see aggression nor that horrible sadness. The opportunity to offer Hunter a home is a privilege for me,” she said.

One of the obligations of adoptive families is sponsoring “the freedom flight” from China to the United States, which totals $1,275 for a large dog. The dogs and their new owners will meet for the first time in the arrival terminal.

“Several people responded on the app offering to help pay for the flight. One person even donated $500. So now Buddy and Hunter will be in each other’s lives forever. Mariya and I will go together to JFK when we get the call sometime at the end of October. There will be hundreds of people, and a mix of emotions including sadness that so many can’t be saved,” said Kocay.

She wants to bring awareness to Jeffrey Beri and the work of the No Dogs Left Behind rescue mission.

“He risks his life every day to rescue those dogs. And he is reaching children by going to schools and teaching compassion and respect for dogs and all animals. I hope people will read about him and research the organization. They might want to adopt or donate,” she said.

Kocay knows of other people in Connecticut who have adopted through NDLB. A majority of adoptive families are from New England.

“We want this barbaric practice to end. Many people in the world don’t know about it. The more people we reach, the more awareness there will be. And we can put pressure on China to stop,” said Kocay. VL


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