On November 12th, many dog owners are participating in the Petiquette campaign held by Pet Care in Starfield.
/Photograph by Yu Na-kyung
On October 6th, the representative of Korean restaurant “Hanilkwan” passed away from sepsis. It was caused by a bite from a dog whose owner is the family of a celebrity Choi Si-won. As the case was reported by many media, “Petiquette” has become a topical issue since his dog was unleashed. “Petiquette” is a neologism which is made by combining “pet” with “etiquette.” It refers to the etiquettes that dog owners should follow and it includes the disposal of pet waste, registration of pets and using a leash.
Recently in Korea, there are some dog owners with irresponsible Petiquette such as taking their dogs' leashes off saying “My dog does not bite anyone.” It is a dangerous attitude, since the unleashed dog can threaten others’ safety by biting them. Moreover, such improper Petiquette can shift blame from the owner to the pet. As a result, the phrase “Pet Phobia” became recently wide-spread.
The reality of Korean Petiquette: “My dog does not bite anyone”
Recently, the bite accidents has been increasing in Korea. In July, in Gyeongju, a dog attacked a family walking in the park. Moreover, in October, a girl was bitten by a dog in Yeosu. The dogs in the above cases were all unleashed. According to the Korea Customer Agency, the number of dog bite accidents in 2017 is 1,046, which is a significant increase compared to 245 in 2016.
The cause of these accidents is related to the irresponsible Petiquette of the dog owners, especially regarding the use of leashes and muzzles. There are many pet owners who do not want to leash their dogs even if they are fierce dogs. They just insist that their dogs are not dangerous. According to the Operation Headquarters of Seoul Han River, the number of warning to people who did not have a leash on their dogs was 28,484 until September 30th in 2017.
Kwon Hyuk-pil, the representative of EduPet, which is a training and caring pet center, said, “Personally, I think Petiquette of Korea does not meet that of Europe where the dog owners have mature Petiquette. As an expert of training dogs, sometimes I go out to the park to train dogs. I saw many dog owners who did not leash their dogs. Most of the owners I met had an attitude, ‘My dog does not bite anyone.’ It is an instinct for dogs to bite something. Therefore, the owner must take preventive actions not to cause any problems.”
Lee Hye-min, the member of Woori Animal Clinic Cooperative Association, said, “I have seen so many owners of small dogs who just let their dogs play without the leashes in public spaces. Many of them think that small dogs do not cause accidents. It is an immature attitude. Accidents are also caused by small dogs. As the dog owner, I think we should be more concerned about the misconception.”
Irresponsible Petiquette is related to flaws of Animal Protection Laws
With regard to irresponsible Petiquette in Korea, the influence of Animal Protection Laws cannot be underestimated. Animal Protection Laws, Article 13, Clause 2 deals with putting the leash or muzzle on dog. It states that dog owners should have the leashes on their dogs keeping a proper length of the lead and fierce dogs should wear a muzzle as well as a leash. Article 21 declares that dogs can be adopted if the procedures of adoption are legal.
There are many problems in the Animal Protection Laws. First, the definition of “fierce dogs”are not clearly stated. Defining “fierce dogs” precisely is important because when a dog bites a person, the penalty can be changed depending on whether the dog is regarded as one of the “fierce dogs” or not. According to Article 13, Clause 2, “fierce dogs” are defined as a Japanese Tosa, American Pit Bull Terrior, American Staffordshire Terrior, Staffordshire Bull Terrior, Rottweiler, and dogs “that have high probability of attacking humans.” However, identifying the dogs as species that have high probability of attacking people is highly subjective. Therefore, it is hard to punish the owner properly when the dog bite accidents occur even if the dogs do not wear muzzles.
Furthermore, the adoption of “fierce dogs” is not strict. In Korea, there are not any laws for the adoption of “fierce dog.” Under the Article 21, the procedures of adoption apply to every dog with no difference with “fierce dogs.” Only the price of adopting is different depending on the species. The truth that people can adopt “fierce dogs” easily just by having enough money can weaken the responsibility for their dogs. It means they might not care about controlling the dogs and could result in safety matters.
Also, the penalty charged to the owners for dog bite accidents is too light. It can make the owners do not pay enough attention to having responsibility for the accidents caused by their dogs. This also means the owners care less about the safety of others. Only if the case is admitted as accidental homicide, the owners are fined up to seven million won or imprisoned for two years. However, when the accident is not accepted as accidental homicide, the owner is just fined less than 100 thousand won. When the owners violate Article 13 Clause 2 once, they are fined 50 thousand won. If the number of violation increases one by one, the fine rises to 70 thousand won and 100 thousand won in the event of the third violation.
Several countries have reasonable laws related to Petiquette
In England and Australia, they precisely define what the “fierce dogs” are in their laws. By clearly defining dangerous dogs, the penalty can be charged objectively. The “Dangerous Dogs Act” of England defines Japanese Tosa, Pit Bull Terrior, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro as “specially managed dogs.” Also, New South Wales of Australia clearly identifies the above dogs as “restricted dogs.”
Laws related to adopting and controlling “fierce dogs” are strict, too. This can prevent accidents resulting from “fierce dogs”. In England, “specially controlled dogs” cannot be adopted and bred or exchanged for sale. Even if some dogs are permitted to be adopted by passing a strict characteristic test, they should be muzzled and registered to the city government. Daniel Talbot (Sophomore, Accounting and Finance) of Bournemouth University said, “I believe owners in England have good Petiquette in controlling fierce dogs. They have leashes on aggressive dogs usually. Also, they train their dogs well not to attack any human, so even some dogs do not need to be leashed.” He added, “Of course good Petiquette of the owners is related to the culture in England, but the laws contribute too. Since the law of adopting dogs is not easy, I think it makes the owners to have responsibility for their dogs.”
In New South Wales of Australia, the laws ban ownership of “restricted dogs.” If someone gets ownership of the dog, the owner must register it to the city government. The dog should be microchipped and de-sexed. Especially in Sidney, the “restricted dogs” must be kept inside an enclosure and the owners must display a warning sign in front of the house.
There are many foreign countries that impose strict penalties on owners when their dogs cause some accidents. In England, when someone is injured by a dog bite, the owner can be sentenced up to five years maximum in prison. Furthermore, if someone dies because of the dog, a sentence of 14 years can be imposed to the owner.
In the U.S.A, there is a “Dog Bite Law” which specifically deals with dog bite accidents. In the case of Washington, “Dog Bite Law” is favorable to dog bite victims. That is, the owners of the dogs are strictly liable for dog bites accidents regardless of whether the owners know that their dogs have viciousness or not. Kaofang Ratanapapat (Sophomore, Educational Studies) of University of Washington said, “From what I had seen, the people around my local area, which is Seattle, Washington, have mature dog Petiquette. They always use a leash on their dogs. The law here is very strict. Especially in a situation when a dog, in your supervision, hurts other citizen, the owner is completely responsible for this accident and there is no exception in any case. I think strict law is somewhat related to having mature attitude since strict law can be pressure to intensify the owner’s care of their dogs.”
Efforts to improve Petiquette just have started in Korea
There are many people striving to improve the incomplete Petiquette in Korea. On November 21st, a netizen started a petition campaign insisting on enacting “Choi Si-won special law,” which demands to reinforce the responsibility of dog owners, and about three thousand people put their signatures until November 10th. It means the demands for strict laws which can contribute to improving Petiquette are increasing.
Many businesses are trying to guide many owners to have a mature Petiquette, too. On November 4th, a Petiqutte campaign about having a leash was held in Starfield by Pet Care, the private enterprise known for holding many events about Petiquette. Han Kyoung-dam, the representative of Pet Care, said, “In many foreign countries, it takes a few months to adopt the dogs. Dog owners can improve their Petiquette about caring for their pets during that period. However, in Korea, people can own pets easily so they have little time to learn mature Petiquette. Therefore, by making the owners participate in this campaign, it can be a great chance of learning proper Petiquette”
Moreover, the government is trying to increase responsible Petiquette by amending the animal protection laws. Kim Young-lok, the minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, announced that they will revise some laws to strengthen the management of safety accidents on October 25th. He declared that they will expand the definition of “fierce dogs” in laws to control accidents caused by them. The minister Kim also remarked that they will increase the fine charged to the dog owners up to 500 thousand won.
He also announced the introduction of a system of reward, in which people are rewared when they report the pictures of the owners who do not have leashes on their dogs. So-called, “Dog-parazzi” will appear next year, which brings up some concerns about the invasion of private life. In regard to this, Kim Bo-min (Freshman, North Korea Studies Major) said, “I agree that it can make the dog owners take care about their dogs and be conscious of others. However, I think it can invade their privacy by taking pictures of the owners. I know we need new policy to improve the Petiquette, but we should not ignore the side effects of such policy.”
Now people are facing the era of ten million dogs in Korea. In various areas, many people are striving to make responsible Petiquette. If the efforts last and some deficiencies can be corrected, mature Petiquette would be able to be achieved in Korea. The representative Han said, “In the era of ten million dogs, qualitative improvement like Petiquette should follow quantitative expansions of dogs. There are a lot of people who adopt dogs just by their appearance.” He added, “There is a big difference between being ready to be an owner and just adopting dogs without any knowledge of dogs. As dog owners, they should respect and consider others. This attitude is important to make a society which has no conflicts regarding dogs.”
Yu Na-kyung email@example.com
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