UPPER TOWNSHIP — As he nibbled a treat from the hand of Tami Swetsky on Friday morning, Kaji had no way of knowing how close he had been to becoming a mealtime treat himself.
A week ago, the 3-year-old, 12-pound mixed breed was flown from South Korea, where he was rescued from a dog meat farm, to JFK Airport in New York. From there, the shorthaired white dog was picked up by area animal activist Linda Gentille and delivered to the care of Dr. Nick Holland at Shore Veterinarians in Seaville.
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“I wouldn’t be doing any of this stuff if it weren’t for her pushing me,” Holland said of Gentille, a cruise ship performer who two weeks ago used a port call at Incheon, South Korea, to visit an animal rescue group with whom she had previously been in contact.
While there, Gentille arranged for Kaji, which means “eggplant” in Korean, to escape the fate that befalls 2.5 million cats and dogs annually in that country, according to Koreandogs.org, the organization with which Gentille works.
As Holland spoke, Kaji rested in the arms of Swetsky, manager of Shore Vets’ Seaville office, and accepted scratches to his head and some fondling of his tan ears. In a few days, Kaji’s mandatory quarantine — required to ensure he has no communicable diseases — will end and he will be available for adoption. Holland said several people already are interested in making the little dog with the big black eyes a part of the family.
Some training may be involved in helping Kaji become a household pet: He isn’t housebroken, and he doesn’t speak English, Holland said, but he was confident the calm canine would be a good fit for a multiple-dog household.
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“People think it’s a myth, but it’s real,” Gentille said of the dog-meat industry in some Asian countries, where the animals, considered livestock, may be beaten, electrocuted, burned or tortured to death before going to market.
Holland, a vet since 1977, said the most difficult part of veterinary medicine for him has always been euthanasia, even when appropriate, and that the way dogs meet their ends where they are used for food is horrifying. To prevent overpopulation, Holland urges sterilization for pets and strays.
“We do a lot of spay-and-neuter for minimal fees because we believe in birth control,” said Holland, who counts two rescues among his three dogs. “It’s my way to stem the tide.”
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That mission expanded outside the United States last year when Holland traveled to Bangkok to spay about 60 female dogs. Although dog meat is not generally eaten in Thailand, the country exports dogs to Vietnam for human consumption. Gentille was instrumental in getting Holland to undertake that assignment, too.
“It was the right time for me to start doing this,” he said. “Spay-and-neuter is one of the most effective ways to reduce the population, and by doing things like this, we are keeping it in the forefront.”