“Do not be afraid or hesitant in joining”: Interview With Dog Cat Tribe Volunteers

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In the previous article we explored the different cats of Asia. In the following pages, Magazine N presents to you the lives of cats living in South Korea. What are these felines to Koreans? In recent decades, cat-lovers have become so prevalent that they are often called by the endearment “nyangi” (which is a shortened version of the Korean goyangi for cat). At the same time, the number of stray cats have also been increasing, and it has become a social issue calling for the services of animal protection groups. Here Magazine N interviews Kim Do-hyung, Chief and founder of the Dog and Cat Tribe Volunteers (abandoned animal protection organization), on the current situation and condition of cat welfare in the country.

Regarding Dog Cat Tribe, Kim said, “I first decided to create this volunteer group because I felt like I could do more for animals with the help of other people. But I also realized that the bigger the organization, the more difficult it is to be transparent in your work. So, I wanted to make a group that was as transparent as possible, though small, to help animals in a trustworthy and effective way. And on August 2015, I—along with members from the DC Tribe community that I was part of—created our own Dog and Cat Tribe (DCT), as in “a tribe with both dogs and cats”.

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Chief Kim Do-hyung’s family consists of him, his wife, and their 8 cats. “After my wife and I got married, we took care of both her cats and mine, and now we are a big family of 8 cats. Most of them were either abandoned or abused and come with their own scars, but they are all my precious children. Cats are different from dogs in that they tend not to be dependent on humans and do not act as friendly as dogs. But, in their own way, they will interact with humans; sometimes they will share their body heat with you, or stare deep into your eyes. Cats are interesting because they’re unpredictable. Sometimes they act according to their own will, and other times, they will be playing up to you acting all cute and warm. But I would like to say one thing to those who want to adopt a cat or dog; don’t raise an animal on a whim; just because you feel like it or just because they are cute. Consider all the things that come with raising the pet and if there is any one thing that bothers you, don’t think about adopting.”

“In Korea, many people think that the reason we say, ‘Don’t buy pets, adopt them’ is because we want people to take care of poor dogs and cats that have been abandoned. Well, part of that is true, but another part to the story is that the pets that are sold in pet shops often come from farms where animals are kept under harsh conditions to simply reproduce. Cats are given hormone shots to keep on having kittens. The farmers say this is the only way they can meet the demand, but it is also why animals continue to remain “products” and are taken of any and all their animal rights. It is the sad reality of Korea’s animal production industry,” Kim continued.

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Closing with an encouragement to all those hesitating whether or not to participate as an animal protection volunteer Kim said, “Volunteer programs designed for abandoned animals is what I consider the healing process for an illness created by Korea’s modern society. Korea as a whole as changed and as the country developed economically, the pet industry also grew. Yet, that only led to more irresponsible pet ownership and more abandoned animals. It’s the poison that we have made. Services for abandoned animals are a way to clean up our mess and help innocent animals suffering from our poor choices. Do not be afraid or hesitant in joining; it’s something that you can join in with family members and friends who are also interested. Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall once said, ‘Humans have the responsibility of protecting animals, not the authority to rule over them’. If the world ever comes to the agreement that animals are not objects for possession but lives that need to be protected, then Dog and Cat Tribe will gladly step down from our work. But for now, are efforts are not enough, we need your help too.”

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