SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Reuters) – Jin-hui, a cream-colored Pomeranian, was buried alive and left to die in 2018 in the South Korean port city of Busan.
No charges were filed against its owner at the time, but animal abusers and those who abandon pets will soon face stiffer penalties as South Korea considers amending its civil code to grant legal adviser to animals, Choung Jae-min, director general of the Justice Department’s legal adviser, told Reuters in an interview.
The amendment, which has yet to be approved by parliament, probably at its next regular session in September, would make South Korea one of the few countries to recognize animals as beings, with a right to protection, better well-being and respect for life.
The push for the amendment comes as the number of animal abuse cases jumped to 914 in 2019, from 69 in 2010, data released by a lawmaker’s office showed, and the population of pet owners from company has grown to over 10 million people nationwide from 52 million. .
South Korea’s animal welfare law states that anyone who abuses or is cruel to animals can be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison or a fine of 30 million won ($ 25,494), but the standards for deciding penalties have been weak as animals are treated as objects under the current legal system, Choung said.
Once civil law declares animals are no longer just things, judges and prosecutors will have more options in determining sentences, he said.
The proposal has sparked skepticism from the Korea Pet Industry Retail Association, which pointed out that there are already laws to protect animals.
“The review will only ask for ways to regulate the industry by making it difficult to adopt pets, which will have a huge impact not only on the industry, but on society as a whole,” said the general manager of the association, Kim Kyoung-seo.
Choung said the amended civil code would also pave the way for follow-up efforts such as life insurance packages for animals and the obligation to rescue and report traffic accidents.
It is likely that the amendment will pass, said lawmaker Park Hong-keun, who heads the parliamentary forum on animal welfare, because there is a broad social consensus that animals should be protected and respected as living things that coexist in harmony with humans.
Animal rights groups hailed the Justice Department’s plan, while calling for tougher penalties for those who abandon or torture animals, as well as a ban on dog meat.
“Pet abuse, abandonment and neglect have not improved in our society,” said Cheon Chin-kyung, head of Korea Animal Rights Advocates.
Despite a slight drop last year, animal abandonments fell to 130,401 in 2020 from 89,732 cases in 2016, the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency said. South Korea has around 6 million pet dogs and 2.6 million cats.
Solemn with big sad eyes, Jin-hui, which means “true light” in Korean, now enjoys spending time with other dogs at an animal shelter south of Seoul.
“His owner got angry and told his children to bury him alive. We barely managed to save him after a call, but the owner was not punished because the dog was recognized as his property, ”said Kim Gea-yeung. , 55 years old, in charge of the refuge.
“Animals are certainly not objects. “
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Reportage de Sangmi Cha, Minwoo Park, Daewoung Kim; Montage par Karishma Singh
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