Cyclones and COVID couldn’t stop this rescue story
Lavery pressed up against the bars of his crammed cage, frozen from a combination of shock and fear.
Meanwhile, a FOUR PAWS team buzzed around the cages, looking in, assessing and documenting the surroundings, all to plan what would be a difficult rescue mission. FOUR PAWS was determined to shut down this dog slaughterhouse in Cambodia, a facility that killed thousands of dogs a year. This mission was the culmination of months of planning, negotiations, and collaboration with the facility’s owner. Lavery didn’t know any of this though, and it was certainly the least of his concerns.
For the dogs packed tightly in rusty, metal cages on-site, this mission was a matter of life and death. It was the second dog slaughterhouse closure our team has tackled. This was the last time he would be a victim of the trade. But their rescue did not come without its challenges.
At the height of summer 2020, COVID restrictions were in full effect, perhaps the strictest of which were in Southeast Asia, with countries implementing complete bans on international travel. This impacted both staff travel into Cambodia, as well as the importation of desperately needed rescue supplies like dog crates. Team transport within Cambodia between provinces also became very restrictive. Then, as the rescue date grew closer, as if things weren’t hard enough, Cyclone Sinlaku barreled down through Southeast Asia bringing torrential rainfall, gusty winds, and severe flooding.
Our team’s commitment to the mission however never wavered. On the morning of the rescue, the sky cleared and our team ventured down the muddy roads via van and tuk tuk to close down the slaughterhouse. After many soft words and treats, all 15 dogs on-site were gently loaded into transport crates, and the rusty cages used for housing dogs for slaughter were permanently dismantled; the tools of torture and death also removed. The rescued dogs were then driven to our shelter partner, Animal Rescue Cambodia, for urgent medical care, food and rest.
With ongoing treatment, proper nutrition and some TLC, these dogs slowly began to trust humans again. Some more friendly than others – probably pets stolen from their owners- yearned for the attention of the staff and their playdates in the courtyard.
Although a safe place, FOUR PAWS knew we needed to get these dogs out of the shelter to make room for others, and ensure they never risked ending up in the trade again. Since COVID had nearly grounded all international and domestic passenger flights, even more so for cargo and animals, for months our teams across Southeast Asia and the US waited…and planned.
With no commercial flight options available in Cambodia to transport dogs, our team had to employ Plan B, which involved driving Lavery and 10 other dogs across the border into Thailand, where they waited patiently at a boarding facility in Bangkok for two weeks. One they were approved by US Customs to make the journey Stateside, they were finally loaded on a flight to Los Angeles.
In California, and under the wonderful care of yet another amazing shelter partner, The Barking Lot in San Diego, Lavery surprised his foster mom every day.
A few days into foster care, Lavery decided to show his foster mother his knowledge of commands, sitting just as she said “sit” to her other dog. It seems as if he is picking up the English language quickly as well! It was here that Lavery really learned that couches were for snuggling, kitchens had food in them, and walking on a leash was fun.
In no time at all, Lavery had an adoption application. This dog has not only escaped the trade but has overcome so many challenges in his young life. Now in his forever home, Lavery's story is one of overcoming all obstacles to reach the happiest of endings.
Help us to achieve a lasting end to this trade – so no dogs like Lavery are at risk ever again.