|An employee of Korea Animal Rescue and Management Association (KARMA), a non-profit organization based in Seoul, transports rescued animals from a river outside Seoul in 2006. KARMA has been active for two decades and the Seoul Metropolitan Government is now supporting KARMA to expand its rescue operation in Seoul during late night. Courtesy of KARMA|
By Kim Se-jeong
What would you do if you saw a dog that had been hit by a car in the middle of the road in Seoul?
You could either call 120 DASAN Seoul Call Center for help or the district office of the area where the accident occurred. Animal rescue staff from Korea Animal Rescue and Management Association (KARMA), a non-profit organization commissioned by district offices to carry out animal rescue, would arrive on the scene.
One problem that has beset this otherwise functional operation was that rescue staff wasn't available from midnight to 9 a.m.
But, this is changing now.
Last week, the Seoul Metropolitan Government started support of KARMA's late-night and holiday rescue operations so that the emergency services can reach those animals, mainly dogs, stranded or injured in the city during nighttime hours. The service also operates on weekends.
"The number of pets is increasing in Seoul; still, many are abandoned. The city's move is intended to install a system so that we can react quickly to rescue animals at any time of the day," a city official handling companion animals said.
The late-night animal rescue project kicked off last Tuesday.
"We had rescued seven dogs from the 17th to Monday morning," said Lim Seong-kyu, the secretary general of KARMA, told The Korea Times during a telephone interview on Monday. "The rescue mainly involves dogs and the most frequent case was that a dog has been hit by a vehicle or badly beaten."
Unlike daytime operations where the city is covered by four rescuers, the night operation is covered by one KARMA staff who respond to situations around the city in an emergency vehicle.
"When they get a call ― through the 120 DASAN Seoul Call Center or the district office― they drive to the site. If needed, they take the animal to the nearest 24-hour animal hospital. After treating them, we try to find the animal's owner but those whose owner cannot be found are put down," Kim said.
Seoul has three animal hospitals that are open 24 hours ― in the districts of Mapo, Joongrang and Gangdong.
Lim said his team doesn't handle noise complaints involving cats.
"I know cats' mating calls bother people when you hear them while trying to sleep and I heard people call the local government for that. But that's not an emergency situation that we can deal with."
Recently, more and more people here are choosing to keep pets at home. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government last year, one out of five households in Seoul had one companion animal. The most popular pets are dogs, accounting for 85 percent, followed by cats, at 12 percent.
The late-night rescue operation is part of the city's effort to become animal friendly.
Also, it authorized private businesses, mostly cafes, to allow pets indoor and created pet playgrounds. The city is also encouraging owners to have their pets micro-chipped and for prospective dog owners to adopt abandoned dogs; a subsidy is on offer for their medical insurance. Running a 24-hour animal medical center was also part of the city's effort to take care of companion animals.
KARMA has been conducting rescue operations around the country since 2000 and with the growing number of companion animals, has seen its activities expanding.
Currently, 20 district offices in Seoul, out of 25, commission KARMA to handle animal rescue, animal transport, finding owners of lost pets and euthanizing abandoned pets.
|A rescuer from Korea Animal Rescue and Management Association rescues a dog buried under a piece of concrete at a construction site in Seoul, 2007. Courtesy of KARMA|