By Courtney Sherwood
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Animal rights advocates are seeking homes for scores of dogs raised for South Korea's canine meat market but sent to the United States for adoption after their breeder switched to growing rice, the head of a regional Humane Society said on Wednesday.
Nine of 25 dogs rescued by the Humane Society of Southwest Washington have already been adopted, and 78 other dogs from the same Korean farm have been taken in by other shelters in Washington state and California, said Stacey Graham, president of the Vancouver, Washington, nonprofit.
The dogs in question are all mixed-breed varieties of either a Japanese Mastiff, also known as a Tosa, which can grow to 130 pounds (59 kg), or of a smaller Korean Jindo, a hunting dog closer in size to an Akita.
The animals were purchased through a Humane Society International effort aimed at crusading breeders across 17,059 South Korean dog farms to halt the practice of raising domestic dogs for meat.
The global organization said an estimated 2 million dogs are raised and slaughtered for meat in South Korea each year.
"These dogs were raised in cages and had no understanding of spatial boundaries, they had never been on a leash. Most are 1-to-3 years old, and they behave like gigantic puppies because they don't know anything about the world," Graham said.
Shelter workers spent six weeks helping the dogs acclimate to the company of people and training them to walk on a leash and respond to basic commands before issuing a call on Tuesday for adoptive families, she said.
Humane Society International is seeking to increase advocacy surrounding South Korean attitudes toward dog meat in the run-up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Graham said.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)