|Park So-youn (CARE)|
Park So-youn, the head of Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth, is alleged to have put down more than 230 dogs between 2015 and 2018 without the knowledge of most of the group’s staff or donors, in order to free up space at the group’s shelter.
CARE has pursued a no-kill policy for several years, assuring donors that it never kills the dogs it rescues even if they are not adopted. The organization regularly appeals for more funds to carry out more rescue operations.
“CARE deceived donors by saying the dogs would be sent to good places for adoption after they are rescued,” a number of the organizations said in a statement.
A number of civic groups filed their complaint with the police. Animal rights groups also plan to file a complaint against Park with the prosecution.
Park is set to hold a press conference Saturday morning to answer to the accusations.
Park is accused of multiple crimes, including fraud, embezzlement and violations of the Animal Protection Act.
“CARE has stood for a shelter without euthanasia. Donors would have not made donations if they knew that dogs had been euthanized. Her act of having received donations in itself is fraud,” said Kwon Yu-rim, a lawyer at Yuldam Law Office, who filed the complaint on behalf of the animal rights organizations.
“Using the donations to administer euthanasia and process dead bodies constitutes embezzlement,” she added. “She violated the Animal Protection Act by imprudently euthanizing animals without justifiable reasons.”
Animal euthanasia is not illegal in itself. Under the Animal Protection Act, homeless animals can be euthanized only if they have incurable or contagious diseases or if they cannot be adopted. The decision must be made in consultation with veterinarians, and euthanasia must be administered by vets as well.
But this applies only to animal shelters run or designated by local governments, not to private shelters such as those CARE operates.
Park did not deny the allegations, but said euthanasia of a small number of dogs was “inevitable.” She said only dogs with severe aggression or incurable illnesses were put down, and only after extensive efforts to treat them first.
But on her Facebook page, Park had previously stated that none of the dogs protected by CARE had been put down since 2011.
In the wake of growing criticism and calls for her to step down, Park said she had no intention of “irresponsibly” resigning from her post.
“I deeply apologize for not telling the fact of euthanasia of the dogs, but there was a reason I had to do it. For example, I was very seriously blamed and opposed when I earlier said I would put down dogs,” she said in an interview with a local media outlet.
CARE is one of the largest and best-funded animal rights groups in Korea, with some 23,000 members. It raised 1.6 billion won in 2017. It has been at the forefront of rescuing dogs from dog farms and campaigning against the slaughter of dogs for consumption, which is still legal here.
Park is also alleged to have sent the bodies of some 20 homeless animals she had put down to a veterinary school laboratory at a local university. The Animal Protection Act prohibits experiments on homeless or abandoned dogs.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)