Monroeville pet shop owner to rescue dogs from Korean dog meat farms
A pet shop owner will travel to the Korean peninsula later this year to bring back adoptable dogs that have been rescued from the dog meat industry.
James C. McGreehan, franchisee of The Dog Stop in Monroeville, is working to find homes for the half dozen dogs before he picks them up from an organization in Gimpo, South Korea — about an hour northwest of Seoul — in September.
“Every dog, regardless of where they're from or their circumstances, deserves to have a good life and a loving home,” McGreehan said.
McGreehan will meet representatives of Save Korean Dogs, a rescue organization that plucks animals from farms that intend to slaughter them for meat for human consumption. The camp houses about 30 dogs.
The country breeds more than 2.5 million dogs a year at around 17,000 farms, said Kelly O'Meara, a Humane Society International spokeswoman. But the cultural practice has become more taboo.
“South Korea has become a modern population and a global competitor and the dog, in pet value, has been booming within the last decade,” O'Meara said. She said that is just one component that has made Humane Society International's campaign successful.
The global animal protection organization launched a campaign in 2015 to raise awareness of the industry, to save dogs from slaughter and help dog farmers find alternative livelihoods. Since then, over 1,300 dogs have been saved and Korean governments are working to push legislation to phase out the industry.
McGreehan, who opened The Dog Stop in Monroeville in 2014, learned about the realities of the dog meat industry when he met his South Korean dog, Kimchi.
“I felt a connection with Kimchi right away,” he said.
Kimchi was one of two dogs Pam Hoebeck-Knichel of Pet Match Rescue brought to the U.S. from South Korea in October 2016. She learned of the dogs from a social media post by Nani Kim, owner of Save Korean Dogs.
Hoebeck-Knichel, 59, started rescuing dogs and cats locally as a teen. She has since rescued hundreds of animals nationally and internationally through Pet Match Rescue, which she operates out of her Irwin home.
McGreehan and Hoebeck-Knichel began a partnership soon after The Dog Stop opened.
“I think I was an abused dog in another life, it's in my blood – it's my passion,” she said. The pet rescuer has 10 dogs and 20 cats available to adopt currently. Since partnering with McGreehan four years ago, they have worked to place 200 dogs in homes around the region, she said.
When McGreehan approached her for help in his effort to bring six dogs to the U.S. from South Korea's Save Korean Dogs, it was easy for Hoebeck-Knichel to agree to help.
The two companies have three events planned this summer to raise money for McGreehan's trip, which he estimates to cost around $7,200. That includes travel – including the dogs.
From now until the September trip, McGreehan said the goal is find homes for the dogs.
“With any rescue dog … it's like buying a used car. You never know what you're getting,” he said, adding each dog will cost around $500 to potential new owners. “We want somebody 110 percent committed regardless of which dog it is. These will need a lot more care than the average rescue dog.”
That's partly why he is making the trip to South Korea, he said. McGreehan wants to get to know each dog before choosing the six.
“We'll do our best to determine there are no health issues so owners can avoid expensive vet bills in the future. We'll do some temperament testing – play with them, how do they interact with me and other dogs? We want them to assimilate into a home easily,” McGreehan said.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer.