A rescue mission brought back 79 ailing Chinese puppies fated to be dog-meat to the U.S. on Friday where they have been welcomed to their forever homes, according to the non-profit that orchestrated the rescue. No Dog Left Behind, a non-profit organization that rescues dogs from China, liberated the hounds during its largest rescue mission yet, founder Jeff Beri told Inside Edition Digital.
"There is nothing more gratifying than this," said Beri, who flew back to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York with the dogs. It's Beri's first time in the U.S. in 11 months.
"I've spent five years back-and-forth," he said. "It functions almost like a military activation. I am like an underground general.
"Some are family pets sold to the companies, some are stolen, some are bred for the market," Beri said. "For every dog rescue, 10 dogs will be slaughtered."
Chinese laws require permits or licenses to keep a dog, but Jeff works with thousands of activists who infiltrate slaughterhouses and ask for their licenses. Many won't have documentation, he says, and so they give them up.
Dog-meat traders are willing to give up the dogs on the spot if they are caught because the fines far exceed the price of meat, Beri said.
The non-profit has worked with a team of animal activists since 2017 to rescue dogs directly from slaughterhouses, dog meat trucks, wet markets, and traffickers throughout China.
"We operate boots on the ground in China, fighting on the front lines to rescue dogs from the illegal dog-meat trade," according to the organization's website.
Beri said many families had apparently feared police would detain them for keeping their pets, after concern over whether the virus could be transmitted through canines ––leaving countless stray dogs living on the streets.
Beri posted videos displaying vans and buses where the canines were apparently awaiting their trip overseas. The dogs were flown in crates from Beijing and ultimately greeted at JFK airport over the holiday weekend by volunteers and adopters, according to their social media.
"It's the ones that I can't save that haunt me," Beri said.
At the start of next year, an additional 150 dogs will be part of a second rescue mission.