Five dogs rescued from a South Korean dog meat farm are being treated and trained for possible adoption at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in Westbrook.

The dogs were among 250 that were rescued in recent months by Humane Society International from a farm in Wonju, South Korea. It’s the fifth such farm that the global nonprofit has shut down in its ongoing campaign to call attention to and end dog meat consumption in some Asian countries.

The Westbrook shelter accepted five dogs as an emergency placement partner of the Humane Society of the United States, which has distributed the rescued dogs to more than 20 shelters and foster families across the United States and Canada, according to the international society.

The dogs, which are 1 to 2 years old, arrived in Maine on May 26 and are now receiving individualized rehabilitation and professional training in the hope that they will be able to make the transition to an American home environment.

“All they know is a cage on the farm where they were raised and the kennel here,” said Jeana Roth, shelter spokeswoman. “All the things that you and I do with our animals are foreign to them. We have a lot of milestones to reach before they’re available for adoption.”

Shelter staff members are providing physical and mental enrichment, as well as behavioral socialization for everything from wearing a leash to staying off the sofa, Roth said. It could be weeks before any of the dogs are ready for adoption, and placement in foster homes may be the first step for some of them, she said.

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER

Most people in South Korea don’t regularly eat dogs, and the practice is falling out of favor among young people, according to Humane Society International. However, during the summer – especially the “bok nal” or “dog days,” the warmest days from mid-July to mid-August – dog meat stew is widely consumed at dedicated dog meat restaurants, even by people who don’t normally eat it.

Hundreds of thousands of dogs are killed and eaten at that time of year – as much as 80 percent of South Korea’s annual dog consumption – in the unfounded belief that it “cools the blood,” the society reported. About 2.5 million to 3 million canines endure extreme deprivation on dog meat farms every year, confined their whole lives in small cages without proper care until they are killed, usually by electrocution.

Dog farmers intensively breed the animals throughout the year, but they often wait to sell them for slaughter during the summer months, when they fetch the highest prices, the society reported. A large dog can sell for $170, and each bowl of dog meat stew sells for $4 to $8.

“The conditions on these farms are truly shocking,” said Andrew Plumbly, campaign manager for the international society. “It’s factory farming of dogs in row upon row of bare wire cages, filthy with feces. The dogs live in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety.”

FIGHTING FESTIVAL IN CHINA

Dogs get similar treatment in Yulin, China, where about 10,000 are captured and killed each year for a dog meat festival that starts June 21, the society reported. Overall, about 10 million dogs are killed annually for human consumption in China – an illicit trade that involves animal cruelty, theft of pets and serious risk to human health linked to the spread of cholera and rabies.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, introduced a resolution calling on the Chinese government and Yulin authorities to end the dog meat festival and better enforce food safety and animal transportation laws to end the dog meat trade, according to Hastings’ website.

Roth said the Westbrook shelter is dedicated primarily to helping animals from Maine, but it had the capacity to help some of the dogs rescued from South Korea. The goal now is to place the dogs in homes where they will be safe and with people who will continue to work with them to further their rehabilitation.

“We are honored to help in this historic project,” said Patsy Murphy, the shelter’s executive director. “We are confident our community will support them and welcome them into loving homes.”

Anyone interested in making a contribution, volunteering, fostering or adopting an animal from the Westbrook shelter should call 854-9771.