For two hours I’ve been sitting on my couch writing about this assignment experiment I created and conducted with my students. And all the while, my adorably mischievous kitten has been curdled up next to me snug in his blanket and content in his surroundings. But his life has not always been this way, and now as we come to the end of my posts on my student’s persuasive seminar assignment, perhaps it is appropriate to share the mock seminar I did for my students as an example of what I wanted them to do.
And so we start with the problem: the treatment of dogs and cats in Korea. This seminar could be focused on Canada. There is certainly a problem with animal abuse in my home country even among the people given the responsibility of caring for animals in need. But I don’t live in Canada anymore, and I am not connected with any organizations there related to saving, sheltering, and finding homes for animals in need.
So I started by showing my students Thunder, the tiny kitten rescued around the time I adopted my own kitten. Thunder was not only a homeless kitten separated from her mother, but she was also grossly abused by humans. Her eye was gouged out, her tail was cut off, and one of her back and front paws were cut off. I saw her with my own eyes struggling to survive her injuries and various maladies.
I showed my students two cats, rescued by Koreans from the meat market in Moran…
One Moran cat, who after a bath and some TLC became this gorgeous feline.
I also showed them Tiffany, a dog subjected to hideous torture in the process of being beaten to death before she was able to escape. (Many people believe that unlike other animals, dogs must be tortured in order to have tastier meat – not to mention the purported properties of adrenalin filled dog meat on men’s sexual abilities).
We also discussed how many people believe that it is okay to adopt a dog (or in a very small amount of cases, a cat), and then abandon it once it pees on the floor, or eats a lot of food, or needs medical attention. Many pets are abandoned on the street or near construction sites for these and other reasons.
These problems are compounded in that, unlike Canada, there are very few public shelters for homeless animals or pets people can no longer keep for a variety of reasons. The shelters which are available are usually kill-shelters which are only able to keep animals alive for a limited amount of time to make room for incoming animals.
Brainstorming Solutions (Student Style)
After a reading and small group discussions, students began to brainstorm ideas of how they could address the issue of homeless animals. One student, who had a cat, said that her apartment complex had a homeless cat problem, and many older people wanted the cats removed or killed. Instead, she proposed creating an educational flyer campaign to let residents know the problems faced by homeless animals and trying to rescue the cats herself before taking them to a no-kill facility. Other students who were in film studies proposed making a short youtube documentary in conjunction with a website to be set up by students studying computers.
After the students had their first crack at brainstorming, I gave some of my solutions.
The first was adoption and/or fostering. My older cat was the very first cat rescued by what is now called Nabiya, a shelter for cats in Korea. They have a cyworld page, but it is difficult to view outside of Korea, so I suggest accessing their Facebook page. Nabiya is run by two Korean women and a small army of Korean and ex-pat volunteers who rescue cats, shelter them for as long as they need to stay, and find homes for them.
My second cat, my now 7 month old kitten, was found by an elementary school student. Somehow separated from his mother and very sick, he was nursed back to health before being given to the shelter where he was adopted by … me!
Nabiya also sets up foster parents for kittens or special needs cats. Many expats are only here for a year, or they cannot return to their home country with an animal unless the pet goes into a lengthy quarantine first. Therefore, expats are the primary foster parents for these animals, providing short term comfort, a chance to learn how to socialize with a family, and/or special attention to needy cats.
Animal Rescue Korea is also a fabulous network of Koreans and expats who educate people in Korea about homeless animals and resources for people with pets while also setting up adoptions, fostering, fundraising activities, and volunteer opportunities for interested parties. For example, one great webpage explains the exact location volunteers can meet every Saturday morning in order to travel together to the Ansan Shelter, a huge private shelter devoted to rescuing, rehabilitant, and finding homes for animals with an emphasis on dogs. Since many expats living in Seoul are unfamiliar with traveling outside of the city and do not have access to a car, this is a very very simple way to give people an easy way to volunteer.
There is also a great page devoted to 13 Korean phrases expats can use to approach a person who has a dog which is always tied up and never allowed exercise (a common sight), and ask them if they can walk their dog. Sometimes expats see a problem or a place they want to help out, but do not have the linguistic abilities to actually make their wishes or their solution known. This is another extraordinarily simple and effective way for people concerned about chained and neglected animals to get involved in a positive an non confrontational way. My coworker for instance, who has used a great deal of her own hard earned money and more time than I can imagine to rescue ???? an enormous amount of dogs during her 7 months here. Her last rescue was a pug who was caged for the majority of the day. She was obese from lack of exercise, and in the winter, her owner actually taped up the cage with electrical tape and plastic to ‘keep her warm’ but actually prevented the dog from seeing sunlight. Using her Korean phrases, my colleague began walking the dog regularly until the owner realized that she cared for the dog much more than he did. The pug has now been successfully adopted by a couple into a forever home.
Apart from these opportunities, I also explained to my students that they could donate things like used blankets to shelters during the winter season to keep cats and dogs warm. Here is a blanket I donated as part of a Nabiya blanket and pillow drive.
At the time of the presentation, there was also a fundraising event offered online by a department store chain where individuals could log in and leave a message on the event homepage. For every 50 messages, the store donated a bag of food to a shelter. Even if students were allergic to animals or could not have one at home, spending 2 minutes typing out a message and pressing the send button could actually feed a homeless dog. So simple right?
It was exciting to share my own interests in homeless animals with my students, but even more thrilling to see that, despite their varying opinions on pets, the dog meat industry, homeless animals, and their responsibility, my students had their first chance to really delve into a problem and the possible tangible solutions that go with it. And now as I’ve finished writing this, I realize that this post itself is a solution. That perhaps, just perhaps, an expat or a Korean with the slightest of interest in animal issues in Korea will stumble upon this page and learn how to get connected with organizations helping these animals. It really really is that easy and that simple to make a difference.
Read Full Post »