Stray dogs and abandoned pets, a biting issue

by Lim, Seung-Woo
USAG Daegu PAO (Intern)

DAEGU GARRISON – Commonly referred to as “man’s best friend,” dogs continue to capture the hearts of people young and old. For years, the four-legged canine has ranked high on the list of most popular pets. In today’s world, especially in places like the United States, people tend to think of their dog as part of the family. Here in The Land of the Morning Calm, that same mindset is beginning to catch on in Korean families as well. Times are changing.
Something that hasn’t changed, however, is the commitment one must adhere to when making the decision to become a pet owner. It’s not an easy task, and the responsibilities are great. From feeding to training, and maintaining their health, being a pet owner is not something everyone is cut out to be or to handle. Many would agree that it’s fairly easy to fall head over heels for that cute and adorable puppy in the window, and taking him home becomes a must. Even so, something to keep in mind is that it won’t be long before the needs of that adorable pet can become quite a challenge, and the pet owner might suddenly find himself second-guessing his decision to have a pet. It is for this reason, the question of keeping the animal or setting it free becomes a much larger issue.  

The latter becomes a serious concern when the challenge of maintaining a pet gets too be a bit overwhelming, and then the once all too lovable animal is abandoned. Stray pets then soon become a problem for communities. It’s a situation that South Korean officials understand all too well. This is especially since they acknowledge that in recent years there has been an increase in pet owners. Much to the chagrin of many, however, that increase has also brought with it an increase in the number of abandoned or stray dogs, for example.

At a local dog volunteer center, volunteer Park, Ju-Im explained that through the kindness and caring of many people, volunteers from around the Daegu community come together to generate funds and food for these strays. She said, “National protection facilities take care of street dogs for only 10 days.  We do our best, but there are no facilities for these street dogs. Even so, as volunteers we do our best to care for the dogs so that they aren’t hostile or misbehave by biting or barking too much. By providing this type of care, it makes it easier for the pets to possibly be adopted into a new family or home.”

Expressing her disappointment over the plight of street dogs and abandoned pets, Park added, “I don’t know why people throw away such beautiful dogs. I think street dogs can sense they have been abandoned. I also think the more they stay at a place like the center or a shelter, the more they can feel depressed. I encourage people to please show more concern for these animals.”

As USAG Daegu and Area IV are a vital part of the local community, the issue of stray dogs or abandoned pets is of equal importance.  Currently, there are approximately 200 privately owned animals registered at the Camp Walker Veterinary Clinic. An awareness of the registration process, and the care and responsibility of the pet owner is explained to incoming personnel during unit orientation sessions, upon their arrival in Korea. Throughout their tour, they are required to remain on top of the whereabouts and the needs of their pet(s). That responsibility includes ensuring the pet has the right shots and medical care required by USFK and or 8th U.S. Army policy. These responsibilities are in place at all times, and demand the same degree of attention when it is time for the pet owner to depart Korea. The same responsibilities apply even if the pet was purchased at a local pet store.

According to Capt. Kelly Horgan, Officer in Charge (OIC) at the Camp Walker Veterinary Clinic, knowing the requirements involved in the well-being of the pet while in Korea, is equally as important to what needs to take place when the owner is preparing to depart the Korean peninsula.

“There are instances when the pet owner may elect to leave his pet behind with someone. That pet owner may find it difficult to move his pet to another country because of the laws and restrictions involved. The local veterinarian will be able to provide you with the requirements information regarding movement of your pet,” stated Capt. Horgan.

Following the advice of Capt. Horgan can no doubt, save pet owners a lot of heartbreak and stress. Further, it will also help eliminate the possibility of that pet being left behind, and eventually adding to the existing problem of strays. No one wants to leave their adorable pet behind. Toward that end, the OIC added, “Requirements for PCSing with a pet vary greatly. So, the rules will be determined by where it is you are going. Those requirements, regardless of where you’re traveling to, must be met. So, it’s important that a pet owner gets a head start on the pet information and shipping process well in advance of his PCS or ETS departure.”

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