An increasing number of Koreans are opening their homes to dogs and considering them family members. However, there are others who have chosen to capitalize on this kindness by delving into the cruel and greedy puppy mill trade. Puppy mills are breeding factories where female dogs are forced to live in substandard conditions, often in their own urine and feces with disease running rampant, and are constantly impregnated until they can no longer breed. Their puppies are sold in pet store windows or open markets to unsuspecting, vulnerable people. And while our nation combats a critical dog overpopulation crisis, thousands are shipped to the U.S. for sale.
I plead equally for my fellow Koreans to help combat heinous animal cruelty and neglect by never purchasing a dog from a pet shop.
My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Seoul in 1975. As children, my sister and I yearned for a pet, so we bought a purebred beagle puppy. Gucci was a terrific dog. She was happy, curious, beautiful and vocal, as hounds are. When we brought her home, my parents insisted she live in the garage and could never step foot inside. Dogs did not belong indoors, they said, even during freezing cold Midwest winters. Not only was Gucci relegated to the garage, but she was also chained to a makeshift doghouse so she wouldn’t chew on our shoes. As you can imagine, the novelty of having a dog wore quickly. Gucci’s howling (due to lack of attention), and defecation in the garage (due to lack of walks or potty training), led us to find a loving couple to adopt her (and let her live inside). I will never forget the feeling I had as a small child that Gucci could have remembered us and how poorly we treated her. I prayed every night that Gucci could forget.
A few years ago, while I was visiting my family in Seoul, I was delighted to see how many people had dogs as companions. But it didn’t take long to notice the trend: the majority of dogs were small, purebred, “teacup” dogs. The kind of dogs I knew, based on my experience with animal advocacy, were likely bred in dreadful conditions for a quick buck. A recent GlobalPost exposé revealed that there are more than 3,000 puppy mills in South Korea, with countless sick and dying dogs bound for the U.S. for resale. I am therefore compelled to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement and enforce the law restricting the import of puppy mill dogs. There is no excuse for further delay.
I plead equally for my fellow Koreans to help combat heinous animal cruelty and neglect by never purchasing a dog from a pet shop. Not only does purchasing a puppy perpetuate the cruel puppy mill industry, but it also contributes to the notion that only small, purebred dogs deserve a loving home indoors. All dogs are created equal and provide the same companionship and loyalty to kind dog owners, no matter their size or breed. Puppy mill cruelty is a global issue we must all work together to combat. We can start with the basics: adopt, don’t shop.
Michelle Cho is the vice president of The Humane Society of the United States’ Los Angeles office.