If all goes as planned, Odessa Gunn will step off a plane at SFO Friday morning with 10 dogs and a litter of stories that will be hard to hear.
Gunn traveled to southern China ahead of the infamous Yulin food festival to help rescue dogs caged in preparation for being butchered and eaten.
The animals she brings home will go to the Compassion Without Borders dog welfare and rescue agency in Santa Rosa. Gunn, the Forestville resident and former wife of ex-cycle racer Levi Leipheimer, has been in occasional contact with the group’s co-founder, veterinarian Christi Camblor.
The vet said Gunn’s experience accompanying activist Marc Ching on a rescue foray was “very upsetting.”
“They went to a meat market and they rescued dogs,” Camblor said.
Gunn sent Camblor a photograph of one of the caged dogs she and Ching took from the market. In a note with the picture Gunn wrote, “It was horrible. He is a puppy who was wagging his tail and was not near death.”
The pup was placed in a rescue shelter some distance from Yulin. Gunn isn’t able to bring him to Santa Rosa on this trip but vowed, “I’ll bring him home the next time I come here.”
Gunn and Ching and other animal-rights advocates flew to China to attempt rescues in advance of the 10-day Lychee and Dog Meat Festival set to begin in Yulin next Wednesday.
Mass petitions and other expressions of protest have prompted Chinese government officials to impose a temporary ban on the sale of dog meat, but it remains to be seen if it will be enforced and have an effect on the festival.
Veterinarian Camblor said it appears from her research and communications with Gunn that opponents of the annual slaughter of thousands of dogs in Yulin “have every reason to believe the festival is still moving forward.”
Gunn went to China intent on bringing home as many rescued dogs as she can. Camblor said that number is 10, and the dogs being brought to California are believed to have been pets stolen for sale in meat markets.
Once the dogs arrive in Santa Rosa, they’ll be examined at Muttopia, the new shelter Compassion Without Borders created with a $750,000 bequest from late San Rafael attorney Lisa Landey, and given whatever medical care they require.
“They’ll probably be placed for adoption in a few weeks,” Camblor said.