Animal activist draws ire by killing shelter dogs

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Jan 13, 2019 - 15:49
  • Updated : Jan 13, 2019 - 17:59

Calls are growing on Sunday for punishment for the leader of a South Korean animal rights group after she was reported to have put down hundreds of rescued dogs in secret.

Park So-youn, a director of the animal rights group CARE, has put down more than 230 of the dogs her organization “rescued” between 2015 and September last year, according to a news report Friday. A former staff member at CARE revealed that Park had ordered her to do so due to a shortage of space in the shelter in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province.

“Dogs were put down not for legitimate reasons such as incurable illnesses or aggressive behavior, but they were put down because the shelter lacked space,” the ex-staff member was quoted as saying.

The ex-staff member’s lawyer is to file a complaint against Park as early as next week, alleging fraud and animal abuse.

More than 15 petitions had emerged on Cheong Wa Dae’s website as of Sunday, calling for an investigation into the animal rights group as well as comprehensive inspections of other animal protection organizations. More than 6,400 people had signed.

In an official statement on CARE’s Facebook page, Park admitted to the allegations, but said the euthanasia was “inevitable.” She said only dogs with severe aggression or incurable illnesses were put down, and only after extensive efforts to treat them first.

“It is time to open a public debate on euthanasia (of animals),” she said in the statement. 

Staff of the animal protection group CARE call for the group's representative Park So-youn to step down on Saturday. (Yonhap)

A group of CARE staff members said Saturday in a statement that they would do their best to normalize the organization, and demanded Park’s resignation.

“We apologize. The staff members did not know this,” the association representing the majority of CARE staff members said at a press conference held in central Seoul on Saturday.

"The decisions about euthanasia were made by Park So-youn and certain (members of the management) at CARE,” they said. “CARE (claimed to run a no-kill shelter), but it all turned out to be a lie.”

Park is also alleged to have sent the bodies of some 20 homeless animals she had put down to a veterinary school laboratory at a local university, according to a separate report.

Prosecutors did not indict her because she was a first-time offender and showed signs of remorse, the report said. Under the Animal Protection Act, experiments on homeless or abandoned dogs are prohibited.

CARE is one of the largest and best-funded animal rights groups in Korea, with some 23,000 members. It raised 1.6 billion won in 2017. It has been at the forefront of rescuing dogs from dog farms and campaigning against the slaughter of dogs for consumption, which is still legal here.

President Moon Jae-in adopted Tori, a homeless dog from one of CARE’s shelters, soon after being sworn into office in 2017.