SEOUL, July 8 (Korea Bizwire) – The South Korean government announced on July 7 an improvement plan to strengthen animal protection and foster related industries at the 10th Annual Meeting of Trade and Investment Organizations.
The plan includes changing the current reporting system in the pet breeding industry to a license system, legally permitting the online sale of pets, mitigating regulations for opening veterinary offices, and introducing a veterinary nursing system – all focused on the government’s intentions to promote an “emerging” industry.
As harsh criticisms have revolved around the recent discovery of ‘puppy mills’ where dogs were abused with illegal drugs in unbearable living conditions, the government plans to take direct control over the operation of the pet-breeding industry by requiring all breeders or breeding mills to obtain a license to operate.
A grace period will be given for breeders who have not officially reported their businesses in order to encourage legalization. The pet-breeding industry was first operated under a registration system, but was converted to a reporting system when regulations were relaxed in 2012. However, less than 20 percent of breeders actually reported their operations, and there is absolutely no management or control in place for reported breeders.
The government will also establish specific operation regulations for the pet-breeding industry by requiring breeders to provide better care of their animals, and will provide financial assistance to new breeding facilities that follow the new regulations.
In order to improve the distribution of pets, an online pet auction market will also be launched, under a registration system.
Only breeding facilities with a license to operate and registered sellers will be able to participate in auctions, and pets up for auction will have to go through a veterinary check-up. This measure was taken since there are no particular restrictions in place for auctions, and many consumers end up purchasing seemingly healthy puppies or kittens from pet shops that quickly get sick or die after they’re brought home.
“There are currently about 18 animal auction houses in Korea. Some oppose the idea of creating a pet auction industry, but since auction houses already exist, establishing standards for these facilities will provide better options for consumers,” said an official from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
While allowing online auction markets for pets to be operated, the government will strictly enforce responsibilities on sellers by requiring all parties involved to sign a standard contract and revising consumer dispute settlement criteria.
The government justifies its investment in this “emerging” industry by stating that Korea’s aging population and an increase in the number of single-person households will increase demand for pets in the future, and as such pet-related markets such as “insurance, funeral services, veterinary clinics and nursing services” should be supported, particularly the pet food and grooming services markets which are expected to expand to 6.8 trillion won by 2020, according to the Korea Herald.
From the point of view of animal rights advocates, this new investment and easing of regulations only brings questions as to how the government’s actions will ameliorate the current situation of animals who are legally or illegally trapped in tiny steel-barred cages.
Instead of legalizing the pet breeding industry, the government should take a closer look at the reality, listen to the arguments from animal rights activists, and ban the industry as a whole. Instead of providing healthy animals to the market, the government should encourage pet adoption, or perhaps even provide financial assistance, as it will for newly opening pet breeding facilities, to animal shelters and animal rescue organizations.
With 800,000 pets being abandoned in Korea every year, this new investment to encourage breeding operations will only exacerbate the problem of an excessive pet supply.
By Nonnie Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org)