We were informed that there were dogs and cats left in a terrible state in the scorching heat. A dog and two cats, each tied to a short leash in front of the entrance to a temple in Ganghwa-do, an island just off the northwest coast of South Korea, were left to suffer the excessive heat without clean water and access to food. The informant added that all three animals were lifeless, especially the dog who was covered with filthy fur and smelled bad. The image that came with the report showed a typical environment of neglect.
Neglect is more often a result of ignorance about how to adequately look after animals than it is about deliberate intent. Consequently, in many cases, the owners are unaware that they are committing animal abuse. Even if the animals are rescued from such owners, these types of incidents will be repeated unless we change the overall perception of, and general knowledge regarding, animal ownership. Moreover, the current animal protection laws do not prevent owners who have been charged with animal abuse from having or breeding new animals.
We met with the owner to discover the reasons for keeping the animals in such an environment, and whether they can improve it, or if they’re willing to give up the animals to better owners. In case the meeting was futile, we were ready to rescue the animals. Shortly before meeting with the owner, we explored the place to see the animals. Food waste had been left by people. There was a dirty dog kennel, the dog’s eyes being covered with long dirty fur. The cats were without comfortable places to rest, . Our hearts sink every time we see such a sight.
We met with the owner, and revealed that we were from an animal rights group and wanted to raise the issue of the inadequate environment.
The owner was initially hostile, but we were eventually able to convince the owner to talk to us. The owner asked us how to improve the animals’ situation, not being aware of the current issues with the environment. We suggested that we would take the animals and put them up for adoption, but the owner refused by telling us they will take better care of them by learning how to provide a better environment for them. We told the owner in detail and at length how to take better care of the animals and provide a better environment, and also advised that we would be back to check that the improvements had been carried out.
A few weeks later, we made a second visit to see the improvement. The owner met with us again to let us know that the landlord was opposed to having animals on the site, and they had to send the dog away to a friend, and the cats were now free to roam in and out of their accommodations. It was good to know that the animals no longer suffered in the harsh environment, but the more important task was to make sure the owner never owned or adopted new animals to abuse. We convinced the owner that perhaps he should not keep any animals in the future if he was not prepared to look after them properly. The former-owner agreed.
Under current animal protections laws, it is difficult to take an animal away from its owner unless the situation immediately endangers the animal’s life. But at the same time, we cannot stand idly while ignorant or deliberate neglect descends into what we know in our experience will become a life-threatening situation. This is why we spend so much time talking to neglectful owners, convincing them to give up the animals willingly to us. Not to mention the avoidance of future possible animal abuse charges and fines for them.
But if the owner will not budge, there is nothing we can do, and it breaks our heart. This is why we campaign to further strengthen animal protection laws in South Korea, and raise public awareness of animal welfare issues.