By Martha Michael >>>
As animal lovers, we spend a lot of time concerning ourselves with the brands we feed our dogs. Is it grain free? What meat is included in this brand or that one?
We care about saving dogs from the unhealthy contents in dog food, but do we ever think about delivering dogs from becoming food themselves?
There is an active underworld involving a food source that many know nothing about. That is the dog meat industry.
Nareenea Muradian is the owner and founder of Tails to the Wind All Animal Rescue and she receives dogs that are, literally, taken off of trucks that are headed for slaughter. She says they come from both North and South Korea.
“I have multiples that we had just shipped over,” Muradian explains. “We had a Pekingese that was purchased by the meat market and a Samoyed/Jindo mix stolen off the back of a truck. We call him Casper because he loves to play, but if you go to touch his collar or go to walk him on a leash, he disappears. He’s hand shy. All he’s ever seen is in the truck, when they’d pull them out and slaughter them right in front of his eyes.”
When it comes to dogs that are saved from, quite literally, becoming dog meat, she says it’s a different ballgame than training your average domesticated animal.
“Here you have to work on them because they think you’re going to kill them,” Muradian says.
The Tails to the Wind founder has plenty of experience training dogs and is knowledgeable about their habits and behaviors. Not only has she been personally rescuing every animal that comes down the pike for a decade and a half, she works for a boarding facility, plus owns 2 ½ acres of property in Lancaster where she houses rescue animals.
Through Tails to the Wind, which she began three years ago and is pending approval as a 501(c)(3), Muradian supports the rescue of dogs heading for slaughter – both in Korea and in the United States.
“It’s not easy. I just started fundraising,” she says. “There are multiple trucks and as many girls as possible go out there and they try to pull them off the trucks … and take them to a safe city shelter away from the location where they were. They get them as healthy as possible to fly them here. It’s about $2,000 just to fly them here.”
Individuals help the cause by smuggling dogs out of the meat markets, then take them by taxi to see a veterinarian. Unfortunately, not every story has a happy ending. They purchased a Great Dane from a meat market just prior to a Korean festival where they slaughter dogs, but he was too weak and didn’t make it. She has plenty of happy surprises also, however, like the purebred Border collie who Muradian adopted out, now named “Daisy.”
“We worked with her for three months and she started chasing after my horse – nature took over,” Muradian says. “Now she’s a California state service dog.”
The mission to rescue meat market dogs sort of fell into her lap, Muradian says. It began when she met Aileen Hahn.
“She kept bringing dogs over,” Muradian explains. “Now we’re trying to get the money to bring more over. Money talks in this industry. Before I knew what people were doing, one time I saw three dogs tied up outside a building and some in cages. They gave me five dogs for $250. A couple of years later I find out this is what they were doing.”
The problem is not just overseas – some cases are closer to home. Muradian says she has heard of one case in Santa Clarita. It was a restaurant that was shut down and re-opened by a different owner.
“It is against the law to use them as food,” she says. “There was a huge investigation going on in downtown L.A. because they’re doing the same thing in stores in downtown. We were trying to get people in under cover. And we try to pull from shelters as close to Koreatown as possible.”
Muradian has always rescued animals, even as a young girl. “I used to chase lizards and take them home and take care of them. As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an animal,” she says.
According to Muradian’s mother, even when she was a baby, animals played a very important role, including the time her cocker spaniel saw Nareenea in her crib, almost suffocating. The dog compelled her mother to come and pick her up.
“If (the dog) hadn’t heard me calling for her from my crib I would’ve died,” Nareenea says.
On her property she has dogs, horses, pigs, geese – and has had plenty of others. She has had rescues that include macaws, ferrets and wolf hybrids. The largest number of dogs she’s had is about 40 in her possession. She can house up to 20 horses and farm animals at a time.
“I don’t say no to anything,” Muradian says.
Her favorite animals are horses. When she’s in Lancaster she rides one of two horses she owns that she says were “foster failures.”
The boarding facility manager also works in La Crescenta at Hillcrest Pet Hospital for veterinarian Dr. Edward Fries part-time. Her rescuing efforts began with pit bulls. “Then I started rescuing anything crossed my path,” she says.
The biggest problem Muradian sees on a regular basis is the cycle of over-breeding, which results from owners not having their pets spayed and neutered.
“Some people take care of themselves more than their puppies,” she says. “On a daily basis I meet people who bring a dog into the home and once the puppy’s cuteness wears off, they want to get rid of it. I have a $5,000 Pomeranian at my house right now.”
She repeats how important it is that everyone spays and neuters their pets. “I want to be out of a job. I want to be able to one day say, ‘I don’t have to rescue anymore,’” Muradian explains. “I have to do what I’m doing because people are irresponsible. If they ask for help, there are avenues on every corner. I offer to pay for it as long as they just get them fixed.”