From tiny cages to lots of love, Thai dogs find homes in the United States

The China Post - - LIFE - BY SUE MAN­NING

For the first time, they gob­bled up treats, walked on grass and rolled in the dirt — things many Amer­i­can dogs take for granted.

Betsy Garvin’s three dogs were res­cued from Thai­land, where they had been caged their en­tire lives and where many dogs roam the streets or are raised as food for other Asian coun­tries. The trio of mutts, ages 2 to 9, left an out­door Thai fa­cil­ity where dogs are crammed to­gether in filthy cages and 40 hours later, glimpsed free­dom in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

In their new home, Gigi and Mimi cau­tiously emerged from an air­plane crate and glanced around, while the male pooch, Singha, bounded out. He padded across a rug, a sen­sa­tion he had never felt, and then took a big whiff of the earth out­side.

“It’s like he was say­ing: ‘Like, wow, I’m home.’ I let them have some free­dom, go to the bath­room and get fresh air,” said Garvin, who lives in Agoura Hills, about 35 miles north­west of Los An­ge­les.

LIFE An­i­mal Res­cue in the Cal­i­for­nia city has placed 50 Thai dogs in the last two years, in­clud­ing Garvin’s, said founder Emily Bernie. She part­nered with Cindy Amey, who lived in Thai­land for five years and set up a net­work of res­cues, vet­eri­nar­i­ans and ship­pers.

They aren’t the only ones work­ing to save dogs bound for a serv­ing dish, even though the taste for dog meat is fad­ing over­seas. In March, Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional and the Change for An­i­mals Foun­da­tion teamed up to bring nearly 60 dogs from a South Korean meat farm to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia to be adopted. The farmer agreed to close the busi­ness and raise pro­duce in­stead. In Jan­uary, more than 20 dogs were saved from a Seoul dog meat farm and sent to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to start new lives.

In adopt­ing a dog that hasn’t had the ad­van­tages many West­ern dogs en­joy — toys, treats and at­ten­tion — Garvin didn’t know what to ex­pect. She won­dered about sim­ple things, such as how they would act in her backyard.

“I didn’t know if I should let them have that much space im­me­di­ately,” she said. But “they came out ex­tremely re­laxed and ap­pre­cia­tive. It was a joy to watch.”

Six weeks af­ter their ar­rival, Gigi and Mimi are get­ting more com­fort­able but stick close to Garvin’s side, while Sangha is still awestruck.

“He was re­ally im­pressed with the grass and likes to smell the dirt and ce­ment,” she said.

Thai dogs are res­cued from of­ten ap­palling con­di­tions, says Amey, who has moved to Australia and helps save an­i­mals through her group, K9Aid In­ter­na­tional.

Meat mer­chants round up aban­doned or stray dogs, pack them to­gether in tiny cages and stack them on trucks to be sold as food. Other dogs taken off the street are sent to de­plorablelook­ing shel­ters, where sev­eral are squeezed into filthy cages and given lit­tle food and no med­i­cal care, Amey said. Dogs die of dis­ease or fights in the mas­sive out­door en­claves, where adop­tions are rare and eu­thana­sia nonex­is­tent, she said.

Bernie’s group in Cal­i­for­nia faces crit­i­cism for res­cu­ing dogs abroad when there are an­i­mals at home that need help.

The 24-year-old LIFE An­i­mal Res­cue has placed over 6,000 dogs lo­cally, but shel­ter con­di­tions in the U.S. have changed dras­ti­cally in the last quar­ter-cen­tury, she said. Many have moved away from eu­thana­sia.

“The dogs do not know bor­ders,” Bernie said. “If the dogs need help, I don’t care where they are lo­cated.” The ef­forts have meant a happy end­ing for Garvin and her three adopted pooches.

The pets have got­ten used to the daily sched­ule at their new home: two meals, three walks, play­time, watch­ing TV up­stairs and then bed­time.

“It’s amaz­ing how adapted,” Garvin said.

they have

(Left) This un­dated photo pro­vided by LIFE An­i­mal Res­cue shows a dog shel­ter in Thai­land. LIFE An­i­mal Res­cue, in Agoura Hills, Cal­i­for­nia, has placed 50 dogs res­cued from Thai­land over the past two years. (Right) In this May 20 photo, Emily Bernie, founder and pres­i­dent at LIFE An­i­mal Res­cue, plays with res­cued dogs Casey and Vel­vet at their shel­ter in Agoura Hills.

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