A friendly beagle jumps on a fence to greet the photographer at the Beagle Rescue Network shelter in central Korea in July 2019, as beagles and other dogs wag their tails in the background.

It was a big beagly day at the Beagle Rescue Network shelter in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province, when I visited in July 2019. The group’s head volunteer, Jeong Buyun, led me to a magical place full of wagging tails, inquisitive noses and muddy paws.

I took the bullet train from Yongsan Station in Seoul early one Saturday morning, and Buyun and I shared a taxi from Gyeryong KTX Station to the shelter. It was about 20 minutes over hilly country roads, and Buyun said she hoped I wouldn’t get motion sickness. 

When we arrived, dozens of friendly beagles jumped, barked, and wagged their tails for attention from behind the fence. A blind beagle named Rain, a rescue from a kill pound, greeted us in the main building. The overwhelming majority of the shelter’s residents were beagles, but there were a few other dogs too. 

The shelter housed about 165 dogs but employed only two full-time staff members. Buyun said the organization was recruiting more workers, but it was hard to find people willing to work so far out in the country.

Among the beagles

At 26, Buyun had been active in rescue for about eight years. With three more years to go in her doctoral program, she volunteered at the shelter twice a month on average. Most of the other volunteers who joined us that day were high school or middle school students, and some were there to earn school credit. Buyun led the team and showed us all what to do.

The cafeteria was in a separate building downstairs with colorful paw prints on the window and the glass doors. The window also featured a cartoon beagle with an anti-vivisection message inside a thought bubble. Inside there were brightly colored cubbyholes with extra rain boots, and a table displaying framed pictures of dogs who’d died.

The dogs housed in that building couldn’t live in groups, Buyun explained. She introduced Samsoon and Jangsu, two pudgy beagles who’d been pulled from kill pounds within the past two or three years. They were about 10 years old.

Two volunteers joined us downstairs, and Buyun leashed some dogs. I got to walk Ari, a small beagle who was a lot stronger than she looked. We all went out to the road together and Buyun pointed to a building down the street, saying it was a dog farm and we shouldn’t walk past it. But we couldn’t avoid the property next door, where two Jindo-type dogs were tied up outside and barked as we walked by. 

Along the way, Samsoon slipped her collar and escaped from the volunteer behind me. I tried to catch her but there was nothing to grab onto. Thankfully, Samsoon was safely recaptured when she stopped to sniff some bushes. 


When we were all getting ready downstairs, four dogs were loose in the room. One, Paula, looked a little scared and went to hide in a corner. Not wanting to crowd her, I sat on a chair a few feet away and another dog ran up to give me kisses. 

Paula yelped at the other dog to scare her away. She was guarding me, like a toy or a food dish, and I was flattered.

Paula was from a laboratory, Buyun told me later, but her situation wasn’t “the worst of the worst.” The laboratory was owned by a dog food company, Buyun said, and Paula was probably used in palatability tests.

I asked if that was why Paula was overweight, but Buyun said no.

Many of the dogs at the shelter were overweight because they had free access to dry kibble. Group housing had pros and cons, Buyun said, one of the cons being the potential for fights over food. Free feeding reduced food aggression, but it also made dogs overweight.

Near the end of the day, Paula got a bath. She was set to go to a foster home the next day.

Pepper and Mylk

It rained on and off the day I visited. When it was raining we spent some time indoors, unpacking and preparing dog treats with the student volunteers. Two other dogs got baths: a spitz named Mylk and a little silver dog named Pepper who sort of looked like a schnoodle (a schnauzer-poodle mix). 

Pepper and Mylk were from a puppy mill, Buyun told me. Beagle Rescue Network representatives had gone there to rescue some beagles but hadn’t wanted to leave Pepper and Mylk behind.

Mylk’s coat still had dark scaly patches because she had mites when she first came in. The mites were gone, but it would take time for all the fur to grow back. 

Pepper probably had an allergy, Buyun said, and her fur was so thin that she was prone to sunburn.

Mylk was a little scared, but she cooperated when I gave her a bath and again when Buyun and the other volunteers dried her. Pepper was happy and excitable, perpetually jumping up and wagging her tail, but she also had a habit of spinning in circles. Had she picked up that behavior at the puppy mill? 

I asked Buyun, who said she didn’t know. 

Vet schools in Korea

When the sun was shining, it was time to clean up the yard and Buyun gave me a big red pooper scooper and a metal tool to scrape dog poo off the ground. Parts of the ground were rocky, and the poo was mushy, so when I picked it up I got a lot of rocks too. I must have gone through three or four scoops, and it was awkward asking for new ones. Many dogs jumped up to give kisses while I was working. 

When the outer part of the yard was done, it was time to clean a smaller fenced-in area. There was a small house in this section that was equipped with electricity and heating in winter. It was certainly a lot nicer than the outdoor housing I’d seen at other shelters in Korea. A camera-shy beagle greeted me on the wooden porch outside. 

Buyun came in to clean the beagle house with me, and she told me the dogs there had come from a vet school. They must have been used to practice minor procedures such as drawing blood and giving shots, she said. 

At least the school turned them over to the Beagle Rescue Network instead of killing them, as nearly all other vet schools did, she said as we were cleaning. 

I said I thought it would be better if vet schools could open free clinics and help animals from the community — animals who really needed shots or blood tests. Buyun said she knew of only one such clinic in Korea. At most vet schools, animals didn’t leave labs alive. Some vet students wanted to change things, she said, but their professors still clung to the old way of thinking.

None of the dogs had been used for surgical practice, Buyun told me when I asked. I speculated that other dogs must have been used for that purpose and been killed at the lab. Buyun agreed that was probably the case.


A wooden deck on the property served as a play area where the dogs could run around. In the morning, Buyun and I went there with three dogs and two student volunteers. Two of the dogs were new and didn’t have names yet. The other, an affectionate girl named Amber, didn’t look much like a beagle, but Buyun told me her mom was a beagle who’d had puppies in a kill pound and then died of unknown causes. 

Amber was wearing a funnel collar, but she was running so fast on three legs that I didn’t notice one leg was bothering her. It was getting better slowly, Buyun said.


Toward the end of the day, the student volunteers went home but Buyun and I stayed longer because of the KTX train schedule. She showed me a second group of beagles from the vet school, and we gave them treats in the drizzly weather. They were all wonderful dogs, but Sojungi was unforgettable. 

Most of the dogs took their treats enthusiastically, and one even grabbed a treat out of my hand with his teeth. But Sojungi didn’t want treats — all she wanted was attention. Later, she followed us to the gate and begged us to take her with us when we left. 

2022 update

In June 2022, I asked Buyun for an update. Still a full-time doctoral student, she was now the Beagle Rescue Network’s director of operations. She couldn’t attend the shelter physically because of school commitments but worked for the charity part-time. All the dogs I mentioned by name in my 2019 blog post had been adopted — some within Korea, but most to the United States. 

Adoption rates within Korea were low, Buyun explained in a Zoom interview. And beagles were big dogs by Korean standards. 

“So they hardly get adopted here,” she said. “So instead of keeping them at the shelter for many years, we prefer flying them to the States.”

To place dogs overseas, the Beagle Rescue Network worked with two U.S.-based beagle rescues — the California-based Beagle Freedom Project for laboratory beagles, and a different rescue for beagles saved from pounds.

The Beagle Rescue Network had established a second shelter in Boeun, North Chungcheong Province, which mostly housed dogs of other breeds, while the Nonsan shelter was still dedicated to beagles. In 2019 the Beagle Rescue Network rescued more than 1,500 dogs from a bad shelter called Aerinwon in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, taking over the facility after working for more than two years to shut it down. The Pocheon shelter was set to close in June 2022, two days after I spoke with Buyun. 

After adopting out about half of the Aerinwon dogs, the Beagle Rescue Network still had more than 800 dogs in its care as of June 2022.

“So it’s been very challenging for us to afford their vet bills and running shelters,” Buyun said. “So we were not that actively involved with new rescue work, but still … we still have rescued laboratory beagles, because we are the only rescue in Korea who can take them.”

She said the Beagle Rescue Network had rescued 26 beagles in April 2022 and was expecting 18 more beagles later that week. Five of the 26 were from a veterinary school in Korea, and the other 21 were from a major chemical company Buyun declined to identify by name.

Two years earlier, the same chemical company had sent 29 beagles to the Beagle Rescue Network for adoption. 

“So I think it was a good experience for them too,” she said, referring to the company. “So they decided to adopt out again this year.”

Working with that company was a milestone, she said. 

“Because those big companies, they, like, they usually don’t adopt out their animals, because it’s more — it’s easier for them to just euthanize them.”

Getting rid of dogs was easier and quicker, Buyun said, but this time the company wanted to adopt the dogs out. 

“And it worked,” she said. “It worked well. So they are changing, so I think it’s a good sign.”

I asked what kinds of experiments the beagles had endured, but she said the company hadn’t provided that information. Many of the dogs had torn ligaments in their hind legs, requiring surgery, but were otherwise healthy.

Asked if she had any happy stories to share, she told me about Atom. The mixed-breed dog was chained in front of a shipping container where his guardian lived, and he suffered terrible burns when the container caught fire. His guardian died, and firefighters sent Atom to a kill pound where he didn’t get prompt vet care. 

“So we rescued the dog from the pound and it took several months to treat the burns,” Buyun said. After the treatment, Atom was still disfigured. 

“So we thought he would never get adopted,” Buyun said. “But he found a great home here in Korea and got adopted recently, so it’s a great joy.”

Reflections in 2024

Earlier versions of this blog post appeared online in 2019 and 2022. Now, in 2024, I’m reflecting on my content strategy for this blog and I’ve come to feel that I need to do more research on animal advocacy in Korea. The Beagle Rescue Network is doing wonderful things for individual animals, and I’m grateful for Buyun’s efforts and those of her colleagues. At the same time, rescuing beagles from laboratories involves cooperating with evil institutions. Has the Beagle Rescue Network found it necessary to compromise its message to avoid alienating potential partners? That’s a question I’d like to address in a future book project. Likewise, I think the CARE controversy — another topic that came up in my conversations with Buyun — requires a more in-depth look.

The word “vivisection” seems to be out of fashion these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if search engines preferred more palatable terms like “animal testing” or “animal experiments.” I hope interested readers will try to get their hands on the 2004 book “Speciesism” by Joan Dunayer for a thorough discussion of why these euphemisms are problematic. I’ve used “vivisection,” even if it’s a little old-fashioned, because I don’t want to minimize the horrors of the practice. What happens to animals in laboratories is horrific, and our language should reflect that.

How to help beagles in Korea

To inquire about volunteering, fostering or adoption, email the Beagle Rescue Network at service@beaglerescuenetwork.org. To donate, use the account below.

Nonghyup bank 355-0056-3278-23

Recipient: 사단법인 비글구조네트워크

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