SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Korea Bizwire) — Pets are rising as a new social issue as they face a discrepancy in South Koreans’ perception of them as either members of society or simply ‘products’.
Pets, who are as dear as family members to some, are mere ‘objects’ under legal terms, with relevant laws criticized for not being able to reflect changing social views.
Last month, an unmuzzled Rottweiler fatally bit a Spitz and hurt its owner in a local residential area in Seoul.
Punishing such acts, however, becomes rather complicated since the primary suspect is an animal. Legal provisions to punish the dog’s owner are lacking.
The incident is gaining controversy since it is expected to end with a civil lawsuit, where the victim will be compensated for the ‘price’ of the dog and consolation money.
Legal experts say that when a pet is killed, the most common way to criminally sue the suspect is by claiming criminal damages, since current laws define animals as equivalents to objects.
In other words, hurting a pet would be the same as damaging a puppet dog. Even then, a criminal punishment is possible only when the suspect’s deliberate intent is substantiated.
Even in a civil lawsuit, placing a ‘price tag’ on an animal’s life for compensation is seen as a failure to fully protect the animal’s right to life as well as the rights of the owning families.
Such discrepancies between social perceptions towards animals and their legal status have been voiced on many occasions without avail.
Experts claim that animals should be endowed a third status for better recognition of their dignity and right to life.
“Germany amended its civil law in 1990 to endow a third status to animals, thereby recognizing them as distinct beings capable of feeling emotions and pain,” said Park Jung-ki, professor at Kyungpook National University Law School.
“We have to correct social perception towards animals by at least stipulating in the civil code that animals are not objects.”
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)