“YOU CAN’T punish me. What’s wrong with hitting my dog when I’m the one raising it? It’s my property and my decision to make**.” On July 26, a YouTuber was seen slapping his dog during a livestream video. Though multiple viewers reported him to the police, they were unable to handle the situation because the Youtuber had adamantly claimed that the dog was his property, and therefore, other people should not meddle in his life. In Korea, pet abuse takes place frequently due to its ambiguous laws and ineffective protection. Instead of buying pets from a nearby pet shop like picking up a toy from a toy store, people should realize that dogs are for life, not just for entertainment.
Mistreatment of pets in Korea
Pet abuse has increased significantly, totaling approximately 118 cases over the past 4 years***. One of the main reasons pet abuse has become so prominent in Korea is that pets are being adopted in an unreliable manner.
Currently, most pet adoptions occur in pet shops, whose “adoption” process is fairly simple: those who want to adopt a pet simply need to fill out an application form and sign a contract, which only shows that the pet seller and adoptee have given mutual consent for exchanging ownership. The seller then simply provides general information of the animal, such as the birth date, breed, sex, and medical records. The rest is up to the new owner.
This kind of adoption process contrasts with that of animal shelters, which are welfare facilities that help abandoned animals maintain a basic life until they find new homes. Animal shelters require potential owners to go through a counseling session as well asa one-month test period to see how well the chosen pet gets along with its to-be owner. This process ensures that the pets are in good hands after leaving the shelter.
The problem lies in that Koreans tend to buy pets at pet shops because they are easier to visit. Therefore, the perfunctory adoption process fails to evaluate whether the owner is capable of raising another living creature and whether he or she views pets as objectsrather than living beings, contributing to the increase in abusive and negligent pet owners.
Furthermore, the government is not strict in checking whether owners have registered their pet’s information onto the Animal Protection Management System, usually required for medical and safety purposes. There is not even a provision in the Korean Animal Protection Law that limits ownership for people who abuse pets. In fact, pets must return to their owners if the ownership has not been repealed, regardless of whether the pet is being abused****.
Thus, these way-too-simple adoption procedures and unfair laws hinder pets from escaping abuse.
The government must improve the current animal protection law. For instance, registration records for pets should be made mandatory by law. This can help lower the number of pets being abused and left abandoned, as the government could easily track down the owners through such records. Additionally, ownership should be revoked by law if any harm is caused to the pet, since this signifies that the owner is capable of further abusive actions. Such precautions will prevent further possible mistreatment of cats, dogs, rabbits—you name it.
Other countries have showcased possible methods to help solve Korea’s problem. For example, in Germany, there are no pet shops in the city; instead, there are more than 500 private animal shelters called Tierhiem, which care for abandoned animals. In order to adopt a pet from this shelter, individuals must pass two qualification tests and obtain a certificate that proves their capability of raising a pet. These tests focus mainly on the person’s ability to care for another living creature: The first written test is related to animal laws in Germany; the second examines whether the owner can safely cope with various situations their pet may face. Furthermore, documents such as consent from all family members must be submitted and approved by the animal shelter.
Korea could begin to follow a similar system by making people adopt pets through more reliable and legitimate sources. As it is impossible to get rid of pet shops entirely, pet adoption processes can be amended first. Although it may be more complex, shops should start providing tests and courses on how to properly treat and care for their new animal friends.
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Adopting a pet is not that different from adopting a child and yet, compared to human adoption, animal adoption is grossly over-simplified. If the intricacies of child adoption were created in order to prevent child exploitation, why can’t the same be applied to pets? As such, Korea should first focus on establishing specific qualifications that “prevent” animal cruelty from happening before more pet victims arise.
*Title inspired by the slogan that was launched by an animal charity, the Dogs Trust