Lucky the dog is getting ready to fly to Toronto from Thailand, and it’s going to cost $1,000.
Dog lovers contributed to a Facebook fundraising campaign for the dog which two months ago was stuffed in a chicken crate on a transport truck, destined for the dog meat trade.
Thornhill resident Agnes Poleszczuk, who is adopting Lucky, is one of many dog lovers in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and other countries who are choosing to adopt dogs from abroad over local pooches in need of a home.
While Toronto doesn’t have the dog overpopulation it did 20 years ago, there are still dogs in the city, as well as other parts of Canada, that need homes, said Toronto Animal Services program manager Mary Lou Leiher.
“Torontonians love to adopt shelter dogs,” said Leiher, adding that the demand for shelter dogs exceeds the supply at Toronto Animal Services. “That’s why many people turn to other sources.”
Poleszczuk came across Lucky when she was browsing the website of the Soi Dog Foundation, which is dedicated to helping “homeless, neglected and abused dogs and cats of Thailand.”
She had been making monthly donations, but after reading about the dog meat trade was moved to bring a Thai dog to join her, her husband and their two teenage children.
The family adopted a chocolate lab three years ago from a rescue centre in Kentucky, which she said is an area with a huge stray population.
While Poleszczuk acknowledges local adoption is “a wonderful thing to do,” she said dogs like Lucky are needy because they’re less likely to be adopted and their lives are at risk, pointing to the “very real threat that they face every day of being smuggled across the border and being skinned alive or boiled alive or beaten.”
“You respond because there is a great need,” she said, comparing the situation to child victims in war zones. “I don’t think it really matters so much whether the person or the animal in need is close to your home or on the other side of the world. I think you help where the help is needed the most.”
Some of those needy dogs come from Quebec or other parts of Ontario — and occasionally the world, said Barbara Steinhoff, executive director of the Toronto Humane Society, where a volunteer recently brought in four dog meat trade dogs from Thailand.
“We’re all for it. A life is a life.”
Lucky is being cared for by New Zealander Sherin Peace, who runs Doggie Heaven rescue centre in Phuket, Thailand, and has found “forever homes” in the U.S. and U.K. for 21 dogs since the centre launched six months ago.
Rescuing dogs from abroad seems to be popular, said Peace. “I guess it’s maybe quite a neat talking point when you’re at the dog park. You saved this dog from being dished up for dinner. That’s so much nicer than going down to the pet shop than spending $1,000 for a pedigree poodle.”
Peace has heard about stolen dogs travelling cramped in crates toward neighbouring countries. A phone call alerted her to a truck of 13 dogs — including Lucky — that had been intercepted in Nakhon Phanom province in northeast Thailand, bordering Laos. They are now in a shelter in Soi Dog’s care.
“There’s about 4,000 dogs jammed in this one shelter fighting for their lives,” said Peace, who made the trip with her 10-year-old daughter about two months ago.
“Lucky came up and put his head on my daughter’s shoulder,” said Peace, adding the dog was infested with parasites and badly in need of a haircut. “He was just like one big dreadlock.”
They cleaned him up and posted videos, photos and stories online, which is where Poleszczuk first saw his picture about a month ago.
Now Poleszczuk’s Facebook campaign has raised more than $700 of the $1,000 needed to fly him to Canada as cargo. She expects to have Lucky running into her arms at Pearson airport by the end of September.