Animal shelter rescues dogs left behind

Written by Kim Ye-rin Filmed by An Jeong-yeon

The number of abandoned dogs in South Korea has risen sharply over the last five years. The Korea Herald visited a dog shelter in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, to see what life was like for the dogs living there.

No. of abandoned dogs

The number of abandoned dogs has steadily increased from 2014 to 2019, according to the state-run Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency. Although the number slightly dipped last year, approximately 289,000 dogs have been dumped on the streets during the past three years.

The YPAP shelter, which has homed abandoned dogs for nine years, is one of a few shelters that does not euthanize dogs. Because of the increased number of dogs who are abandoned, what used to be a spacious playground for dogs is now overcrowded.   Volunteers try their best to walk and exercise the dogs often despite the shortage of helpers worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the dogs in the shelter spend most of their days in the cage, waiting for a new family.

Heidi Kwok, 26 YPAP animal shelter volunteer

“The shelter is now stretched beyond capacity with an overwhelming number of abandoned dogs coming here,” she added.

Of 50 homeless dogs that came to the YPAP shelter in October, only seven were adopted and two were brought back to their owners. Volunteer staff at the shelter try to promote international and domestic adoption by posting the dogs’ information on social media, but it is not easy to find the dogs new families.

According to the Korean Animal Welfare Association, 81.7 percent of the abandoned dogs last year were under 3 years old. Newborn puppies are often abandoned because many people avoid taking responsibility for their pets’ unexpected pregnancies.

Dogs are often abandoned at too young an age. Among the 50 dogs that came to the YPAP center in October, 30 of them were small puppies.

Average age of abandoned dogs

<2020, Korean Animal Welfare Association>

After the COVID-19 pandemic, it became even harder for the shelter to find adopters and many face financial difficulties ...

“The biggest challenge in rescuing dogs is finding a shelter. Unlike shelters that are run by the local government, we don’t euthanize any dogs in our shelter. We get numerous calls that report us about abandoned dogs, but our resources are limited to take care of all of them,” Jung Jin-ah, a KAWA animal rights activist, said.

Despite the shortage of dog shelters, there are some people who are willing to spare the time and effort to help. Dogs at government-run shelters are often euthanized after a 10-day period if they are unable to find new owners. To save the dogs, some agree to foster the dogs for two to three months, so they have a better chance at finding adoptive families. 

Sam Degen, 32 YPAP animal shelter volunteer