For many people, dogs are more than a companion, they become part of the family. But, in other countries, it's a different story.
Dog meat is a delicacy and, in Thailand, it's become the center of an enormous, illegal crime ring. But, an Arizona family is declaring war on the inhumane trade on the other side of the world.
It's horrific to see.
WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES
"They stack these crates one on top of the other in 100 degree heat and humidity," explains Allison Wexler with the non-profit, GreaterGood.org.
Dozens of dogs are crammed into tiny crates.
"Their heads, legs get crushed in the process," says John Dalley, with the animal welfare non-profit, Soi Dog, in Thailand.
Then, they're illegally taken from Thailand to neighboring countries.
"No water, no food and many of the dogs die from suffocation from the journey," says John.
Those are considered the lucky ones. The dogs who survive are slaughtered and sold in places like Vietnam, where eating dog meat is legal and fetches top dollar.
"Only rich people get to eat it and there's a widely known belief the meat has medicinal qualities, or is more tender, if the animal is tortured at the time it's killed. Some really, really bad things are happening to what we call man's best friend," Allison says.
It's why she's fighting Thailand's illegal dog meat trade, from right here in Arizona. In May, she learned of thousands of dogs in desperate need of care after the Thai government intercepted a truck of dog smugglers. Video from the Soi Dog shows the horrifying conditions of the animals when they're rescued.
"I just can't see it and not do something about it," says Allison.
Immediately, she helped raise $40,000, through GreaterGood.org. All of that money was used to feed, vaccinate and build shelters for the 5,000 dogs rescued. A few weeks ago, Allison and her husband, Michael, flew to Thailand with members of the GreaterGood team, to visit the rescue shelter. But, they never expected to witness what they found. Hundreds of happy, healthy dogs, wagging their tails and giving lots of kisses.
"This is Baruch, my new best friend," Allison laughs, while holding one of the dogs rescued, in a video shot during her trip to Thailand at the Soi Dog Shelter.
"It felt really good to see these animals," she says. "Considering what they've been through and how people have treated them up until now, I didn't necessarily expect them to be as affectionate."
And that's why she says it was so hard to say goodbye.
'When we left the shelter and closed the gate behind, it made a loud noise and clicked the lock. I'm not kidding, those dogs howled. They howled for us to come back and that's when it was emotional. That's when it was hard to walk away," she remembers.
That haunting howl is the reason Allison has made it her mission to find forever homes for all 5,000 rescued dogs, starting with her family.
"His name is Woody," she says with a big smile. "His eyes just grabbed me and I said to my husband, we just have to do this."
One adopted 4,999 to go. It's quite a challenge. But, Allison says it's nothing compared to the unthinkable cruelty these dogs survived.
Lynn Peterson, they Director of Media Outreach at Greatergood.org said there are three ways viewers can help:
1. Adopt a rescued dog by contacting Gregg Tully at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. If people have trips planned to Thailand, they can become a "flight volunteer." There are hundreds of adopted dogs at Soi Dog who have families in the states waiting for them, they just need someone to help transport them to the states. It does not cost anything. Volunteers just need to be willing to check the dog onto the airlines in Thailand. Soi Dog will pay all of the extra costs and facilitate all of the paperwork/logistics with the airlines and adoptive families (Contact Gregg Tully at email@example.com )
3. Donate to GreaterGood.org (designated to the Soi Dog Meat trade.)
A $12 donation through the Soi Dog Gifts that Gives More program - will provide all of the food and medical care needed to care for one dog rescued from the illegal meat trade in Thailand for a month.
Those who chose to donate $50 or more they will receive this beautiful Sand-cast Peace Dove Ornament as a special thank-you this holiday season.