Adopting a Dog in South Korea: Meet Duggie!

Ever since I left my family and dogs in Virginia and moved to Belfast, I’ve been wanting to get a puppy of my own.  For the past five + years I’ve spent countless HOURS looking at animal rescue websites and dog breeder listings, but in Belfast we were earning just enough money to get by, and last year in Ulsan we were living in a no-pets-allowed villa.  Now that we’re living in a huge apartment building in Seoul, and now that money is no longer a worry, the time finally felt right to do some serious searching for my puppy!

Pekingese pals at Cafe Pawz, Gangnam ❤

For a country where dog-meat soup is still a widely available dish, Korea is surprisingly dog-friendly.  There are loads of puppy cafes, and dogs are allowed just about everywhere: subways, buses, trains, restaurants, stores…

The only places I’ve ever seen ‘no dogs allowed’ signs are in big department stores and grocery stores.  There are actually more animal hospitals here than I’ve ever seen in any other city, and you can’t walk down the street without passing a puppy shop (literally a shop that only sells puppies and puppy supplies).  Unfortunately, these puppy shops get all their stock from puppy mills, and only sell very specific breeds and colors.  Poodles are very popular, but only if they’re brown or apricot.  Pomeranians are also extremely popular, but only if they’re pure white.  What happens to the ‘odd’ colored puppies from these litters is a thought I’d rather not dwell on.

The Maltese is the most popular dog breed in South Korea, so Maltese are also the most common breed to be abandoned.  And dogs get abandoned A LOT here.  Because the pet trade is so new to Korea, many people buy puppies because they’re cute, then come to realize that they’re growing bigger, or chewing, or pooping, or barking…and they get dumped on the street, or worse.  And because of the dog-meat trade and lack of animal abuse laws, an abandoned dog in Korea does not have a very good future.

Luckily, there are a good handful of non-profit organizations and shelters which strive to rescue Korea’s abandoned and abused animals.  The most popular organization among Korea’s foreign community is Animal Rescue Korea, which organizes volunteer events for shelters, and also lets shelters and fosters post profiles for homeless animals.  When we started our puppy-hunt, we began with the adoption profiles here, and it was exceptionally easy to set up meetings with fosters.

The other big animal rescue group in Korea is CARE (Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth), which has around 300 animals in its shelter, and also has two adoption centers in Seoul.  The adoption centers are fantastic; they’re basically like the popular puppy-shops, but with rescued animals instead of puppy-mill puppies.

We decided to visit CARE’s vegan cafe in Dapsimni, and visited the adoption center next door on a whim, just to check it out.

The cafe and adoption center are conjoined, and unmissable with that bright yellow paint!

The adoption center at this location had mostly larger dogs when we visited, probably around 30-40 dogs all together, as well as some cats.

I knew that I wanted a very small dog, small enough to carry around with me, and a non-shedding one, too, because of Eoin’s asthma.  The vet at this center was very helpful in giving us directions to get to the other adoption center, in Dongdaemun.

The Dongdaemun location has the same bright yellow exterior, but was much smaller.  There were about 15 dogs here, with a few spare cages.  I think the doggy adoption rate at this center is quite high!  We actually saw a family walk in empty-handed and go out with a lab mix puppy while we visited!

This French Bulldog totally stole Eoin’s heart!  It’s very easy to find purebred or designer dogs up for adoption in Korea, and most adoptable dogs are very young; there are actually a large amount of people from the US and Canada who adopt dogs from Korea!  It may actually be easier than adopting one in your home country.

So, though we hadn’t planned on coming to CARE to adopt a dog, it was here, only a few weeks ago, that I first saw Duggie, a 1-2 year old 4.5 lb Maltese mix, and knew he was my dog!

Hi there!

The staff at the center didn’t speak English, so we couldn’t really express our desire to adopt Duggie to them, but I knew I had to have him!

“Don’t leave me here, guys!”

Immediately after leaving the adoption center, I emailed a bilingual volunteer from Animal Rescue Korea, who called up CARE and put me in touch with a bilingual staff member.  And the very next week, I’d started the adoption process to make Duggie mine!  The staff member told me that they’d received quite a few applications for him, but four days later I got an email saying that CARE had decided Eoin and I were meant to be Duggie’s family, and we rushed to pick him up straight after work!

The adoption process was very straight-forward: two forms with questions about our lifestyles, apartment, and previous pet-ownership, a registration form, and a $120 adoption fee which goes towards abandoned animals’ veterinary care.

I was hoping for the best but ready to expect the worst when we brought Duggie home, but he is an actual angel puppy!  He was already completely house-broken, very quiet, loves to play with his toys by himself, and sleeps right through the night in his doggy bed!  I don’t know how we got so lucky!


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