‘Moon Tori’ basks in glory as ROK ‘first dog’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

SEOUL — The Repub­lic of Korea Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in on Wed­nes­day wel­comed a res­cue dog to his of­fi­cial Blue House res­i­dence, de­liv­er­ing on a cam­paign prom­ise to boost aware­ness of the fast­grow­ing num­bers of aban­doned an­i­mals ac­com­pa­ny­ing a surge in pet own­er­ship.

Tori, a 4-year-old black mixed breed, be­comes the first shel­ter dog to at­tain the ti­tle of first dog, join­ing Moon’s two other pets, a 10-year-old Korean-breed Pungsan dog called Maru and a for­mer stray cat, Jjing-jing.

“As a so­ci­ety, we need to pay more at­ten­tion to aban­doned an­i­mals and care for them,” Moon told an­i­mal rights ad­vo­cates at the wel­come ceremony, his of­fice said, adding that as many as 300,000 an­i­mals had been aban­doned.

Like many shel­ter an­i­mals, Tori suf­fered the dou­ble stigma of be­ing aban­doned and hav­ing darker fur in a coun­try that fa­vors lighter-col­ored an­i­mals as pets, and avoids those with black pelts out of su­per­sti­tion.

“Tori had to wait for two years to be adopted while his lighter-furred friends eas­ily found new homes,” said Park Soy­oun, pres­i­dent of Seoul­based an­i­mal shel­ter Coex­is­tence of An­i­mal Rights on Earth.

Be­fore his res­cue, Tori was kept on a short leash in a de­serted farm­house and fed scraps.

His pre­vi­ous owner was an old man no­to­ri­ous for abus­ing dogs and eat­ing them, ac­cord­ing to CARE.

“We wish Tori all the best in the Blue House, un­like the nine dogs aban­doned by the for­mer pres­i­dent Park Ge­un­hye in March af­ter she was re­moved from of­fice,” added Park.

Moon’s pre­de­ces­sor had faced crit­i­cism for leav­ing be­hind nine Korean Jindo breed dogs at the Blue House when she was re­moved from of­fice over a cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Pet own­er­ship has grown rapidly, with nearly a quar­ter of all homes hav­ing one, but the trend has also boosted the flock of aban­doned an­i­mals in shel­ters na­tion­wide.

The govern­ment spent nearly 11.5 bil­lion won ($10.3 mil­lion) on care for about 87,100 such an­i­mals in 2016.

A change in per­cep­tion is long over­due, say some pet own­ers.

“It is the key to im­prove an­i­mal wel­fare in the ROK, as many treat pets merely as pos­ses­sions, some­thing to pur­chase,” said Song Chan­woo, a doc­tor who adopted a mixed­breed dog three years ago.

The adop­tion of the dog, nick­named “Moon Tori”, was wel­comed by so­cial media users.

“Moon Tori, in the arms of its fa­ther! Tori, please live a happy life!” said a user on Twitter.

“Tori, you have met the best owner!” tweeted an­other user.

BLUE HOUSE VIA REUTERS

ROK Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in wel­comes a res­cue dog to his res­i­dence in Seoul on Wed­nes­day.

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