There are lots of pet shops and controversial dog grooming schools in Chungmuro.
/Photography by Lee Da-young
“I am a breeding dog and also used in grooming practice.” Last April, the condition of a dog grooming school was posted on Social Network Service (SNS) and spread instantly. Dogs in there gave birth in breeding factories in pup-bearing years and have come to grooming school in other times. In addition, while the dogs are used in grooming practices, they are often hurt and left unattended living in poor conditions. As such, currently, in Korean society, the awareness of companion animals and related issues such as dog grooming schools, needs to be raised. Animal abuse has long been an issue and caused controversy, but no particular or appropriate solution has been proposed. Also, it is a big problem that people adopt animals indiscriminately since they are cute and abandon them easily for reasons such as not being able to afford them.
The number of animal abuse cases is increasing, but few are punished
We often see serious animal abuse issues. Animal abuse means inflicting pain on animals for reasons other than self-defense or survival. In general, people abuse animals just for fun or to vent their anger. In some cases, they do so to get money, for instance, by selling fur. Recently, however, animal abuse includes not only abuse caused by assault, but also an act of inflicting pain through drugs or chemicals. Neglecting animals without proper care or raising them in poor conditions are also considered to be abuse.
Currently, animal abuse issues are very often reported in the media. In other words, there are many issues on animal abuse. In effect, according to the data from the National Police Agency, the number of cases that violated the Animal Welfare Act, which defines animal abuse, has increased by 1225% over the past decade, from 69 in 2010 to 914 in 2019. Accordingly, the number of people sent to prosecution for violating the Animal Welfare Act increased from 78 in 2010 to 973 in 2019. However, only four of the 3,360 people have been arrested in violation of the Animal Welfare Act over the past decade, and none of the 973 people have been arrested in 2019. The status of abuse by type is as follows: poor breeding conditions (38.3%) accounted for the most significant portion, followed by physical abuse (32%) and neglect (18.5%), according to the Animal Abuse Response Report 2019 of Korean Society for Animal Freedom.
Animal Welfare Act and investigation manual have significant loopholes
Meanwhile, being angry at many serious animal abuse problems and minimal levels of punishment, the public voiced the need to raise the level of punishment for animal abuse. Therefore, in February, punishment for abusers was strengthened. Under the Animal Welfare Act, the punishment for abusers who cause animals to die has been strengthened from imprisonment of up to two years or fines of up to 20 million won to imprisonment of up to three years or fines of up to 30 million won. Also, the punishment for abandoning animals was strengthened from a administrative fine of up to three million won to a fine of up to three million won.
However, although the level of punishment has been strengthened, many cases of animal abuse have been encountered recently. Also, many people are not punished according to the strengthened punishment. Until now, abusers have rarely been sentenced to prison for animal abuse and usually face fines ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands won. This is because the investigation process or criteria for animal abuse have not been clearly specified legally.
Even if animals are abused by their owner, they are considered to be owner’s belonging so are managed by them. Therefore, in most cases, evidence disappears, and eventually, lives are lost due to additional abuse. Also, the animal᾽s rescue can take place only when the owner “gives up” their ownership, not being “taken by” the authority. In addition, it becomes difficult to punish abusers unless the act is proven to be intentional. It is one of the difficult circumstances to impose punishment even when the evidence is weak. Furthermore, if there is no witness, the abuser is the only one who can testify about his/her abuse. Hence, the investigation is conducted by the abuser’s words. There was a case where a dog died since it was tied to the back of the car. However, the abuser, who tied up the dog and drove the car, said he/she tried to exercise the dog. Also, the abuser claimed that he/she had forgotten about tying the dog to the car and said it was just a mistake. Eventually, the abuser was only punished on a minor level. As such, most abusers are not subject to special sanctions or disqualification for adoption. Therefore, in some cases, a person who abused animals raises them again without being punished.
These loopholes also affect the process of investigating animal abuse. There are few cases and measures to deal with the investigation step by step, and only penalty clauses under the Animal Welfare Act are listed. The standards of neglect and poor environment are also inaccurate, so there is no real solution to the problem. For example, in June 2019, there was a report about dogs raised in a poor environment in Daegu. The dogs were tied to a short leash, which made it hard for them to sit comfortably, and the bodies of other dead dogs were left untreated. However, the official in charge responded lukewarmly to the case, saying that the standard of abuse was not clear under the law of that time.
Dogs are treated as “products”
Nowadays, animal abuse is not the only problem that is related to animals. Lately, there is an expression, so called “dog breed discrimination.” It refers to discrimination against dogs according to their species. Usually, it categorizes “pedigree dogs,” which are purebred, and “mixed dogs,” and considers that the former is superior to the latter. Or it even ranks and values purebred dogs according to their pedigree. However, given that so called “designer dogs” in the spotlight such as Labradoodle, a mix of Poodle and Labrador Retriever, and Pomsky, a mix of Pomeranian and Siberian Husky, are popular, dogs are eventually designed and evaluated according to human needs. Also, the word “Pum” in the expression of “Pum- jong,” which refers to pedigree in Korean, means an object. That is, it is like regarding dogs as products.
In February, there was an example of a resort that was opposed by many owners for dog breed discrimination. The resort held an opening event, and many owners of various kinds of dogs participated in the event. Initially, the resort had no restrictions on dog breeds. However, when the results of the event came out, and one of the winners was an owner of a mixed dog, the resort suddenly posted a notice that it would restrict the entrance of dogs such as Jindo and Pungsan dogs or mixed dogs. In response to many people’s opposition, the resort announced that it would permit the entrance of those dogs under the judgment of aggressive disposition by behavioral educators from May. However, this led to a bigger pushback, since not all big dogs are aggressive, and small dogs are not necessarily dainty. Moreover, admitting this, it is not understandable that the mixed dogs were initially restricted.
Dogs in grooming schools become living mannequins
In dog grooming schools, dogs from breeding factories are used to teach trainees. In addition, there was a post describing the environments and conditions of the school and the dogs, which shocked people. According to the words of the person who described the situation, the dogs had to attend the school in poor conditions and were hurt by trainees’ clumsy scissors. Even poor scissors caused parts of the body, such as ears, to be cut off, and some dogs were stabbed in the eye. However, the grooming school said to trainees to leave the dogs whether the dogs were hurt or sore, and stopped people from applying medicine to bleeding dogs. In addition, since there is not enough hot water in winter, the dogs were given showers with cold water. The school also tormented dogs who could not stand properly due to lost legs or twisted patellae. Other students also revealed that the problem has been going on for a long time. That is, the dog in grooming schools have been abused even before. The original poster said that for the dogs, it was a place they can escape only when they are dead.
To solve this problem, the Korea Kennel Club (KKC) is conducting the test for dog grooming certificates using wig, a dog model, instead of real dogs. Many people argue that all training and test should be conducted with this wig. However, some in the industry argue that it is impracticable to do all trainings with wigs. It is because that the trainees do not groom models when they actually do the activities. The Korea Kennel Federation (KKF), another organization that conducts tests with real dogs, because the use of wigs alone is a high risk. They argued that if trainees are put into actual grooming without practice on real dogs, the possibilites of accident will increase.
Lee Su-yeon, a member of a volunteer club for abandoned animals, said, “There are still lots of people who think that animals are just objects. So they treat their companion animals depending on their mood. The owners abandon animals just as they are tired to raise pets and use pets for their own sake.”
Cafes are providing a post to prevent animal abuse. It says that animals are not objects.
/Photography by Park Ji-won
Some breeders have wrong attitude toward animals
Other than above, wrong attitude and awareness about companion animals are also big problems. There are often breeders who treat animals for commercial use. It is often found in the Internet community that pets adopted at pet shops have diseases or even died shortly after. One of the community users said, “A month after I adopted the dog at a pet shop, it died. However, I was shocked that the owner of the pet shop said he would send another puppy as usual.” Most pet shops pay subscription fees and bring pets from auction houses through bidding. Animals traded at auction houses are usually said to be “produced” in unethical ways, such as breeding factories. The expression “factory” was coined because animals produce babies like factories, constantly repeating pregnancy and pup-birth in breeding farms. Moreover, dogs are artificially bred to fit in human tastes, and when a certain breed is expected to show lots of demand, breeding is carried out indiscriminately. Because pet shops have the main purpose of sales, they only focus on their incoming profits and frequently contribute to impulsive adoptions. They highlight only the positive aspects of pets until people decide animal adoption. However, they are indifferent to the follow-up management of animals after they have been adopted. These cases occur because animals are considered as a means of making money.
Some adopters also treat their pets poorly
The poor attitude of some people who adopt pets is also a big deal. The new term “Pandemic puppy” was coined last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It refers to a phenomenon in which people adopt dogs to soothe their loneliness due to prolonged periods of time at home. However, the problem is that the number of abandoned dogs has increased after the outbreak of the pandemic. Lim Young-ki, a chief executive officer of Animal Rescue 119, speculated that the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in more abandoned animals because people felt the financial burden of pet treatment.
Recently, with nuclear familiarization, family getting smaller, one in three households have pets. However, only 10% are said to be responsible until the end. The main reason for abandonment is moving out or sick pets causing hygiene and cost problems. It also occurs as some people who only expected positive effects from pets failed to cope with problems caused by pet adoption.
Cases of neglecting pets are also common. A typical example of it is “Animal hoarding.” Animal hoarding refers to the act of raising too many animals but neglecting them unfulfilling the duties of a guardian. Last April, dogs suffering from animal hoarding were rescued from a demolition village in Daejeon. The number of dogs rescued was estimated to be about 80 to 100. They were living in poor and unsanitary conditions. The dog owner, a basic livelihood recipient, did not have the economic ability to carry out neutering operations on dogs. Meanwhile, the dogs continued to breed, increasing their population. The reason for this situation was that the owner adopted a dog without considering his/her financial ability. This case indicates that pets are being adopted without serious consideration of the cost and time involved. Therefore, they are being left indiscriminately, leading to serious illness or death.
Various efforts are currently being implemented to prevent animal abuse
In the United States, animal abuse is classified as a major anti-social crime like murder. Moreover, the identities of animal abusers are disclosed. In the Netherlands, there are polices specialized in animal abuse. Teenagers under the age of 16 cannot adopt pets. Also, putting animals in store windows is strictly prohibited. In Sweden, it is mandatory to take pets for a walk every six hours. Dogs cannot be tied up unless it is inevitable. Only up to two hours are allowed in unavoidable circumstances. In addition, vocal cord surgery is prohibited; respecting animals, and providing independent spaces for pets are obligated.
Various efforts are being made in Korea as well. Recently, “The Korea Organic Animal Protection Association” declared its foundation with the intention to “Gift happiness through warm nesting and adoption as a new family to friends who had hard experiences while gathering small attention and wandering around.” It is currently seeking to establish a shelter in Anseong, Gyeonggi-do Province. Moreover, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has decided to provide animal safety insurance, adoption gifts, and care education support to citizens who adopt abandoned dogs. “Dog Safety Insurance” has launched insurance products cooperating with DB Insurance and guarantees medical expenses and liability for disease or injury. In addition, the company signed an agreement with Samsung Card, allowing adopters to receive adoption gift boxes worth 50 thousand won.
Fundamental efforts are needed to prevent animal-related problems
Last year, there were 6,378 abandoned animals in Seoul, of which 2,260 (35.4%) were adopted and donated, and 1,007 (15.8%) were euthanized. Compared to 2019, adoption and donation increased by 1.5%, while euthanasia decreased by 4.5%, proving that animal protection culture is spreading. However, the reality that many pets are still being abandoned shows that there is still a limit to this system. Strengthening the Animal Protection Act, with fines of up to three million won for abandoning dogs, has been influential. Nevertheless, punishment is limited since it is difficult to detect. In addition, even if caught, it is difficult to distinguish between abandonment and loss. Therefore, practical efforts such as preventing impulsive adoption, which occurs without considering time and money, should be prioritized. For example, before adopting a pet, an adopter should be recommended to prepare mental attitude such as recognizing problems that may occur after the adoption, directly or indirectly experiencing the life of the owner through temporary protection. Moreover, adoption procedures must be strict. In Germany, qualification to raise pets are given only after passing the specific test. However, in Korea, pets can be adopted very easily. The process of sending and receiving adoption should be stringent so that adopters can seriously think about pet adoption. Furthermore, the adoption of abandoned dogs should be encouraged by conducting proper education and campaigns to raise awareness. Various TV programs are now actively carrying out adoption campaigns for abandoned dogs. These highlight the importance of life and induce social participation so that abandoned dogs can be adopted by good families. These efforts must be made consistently in the future. Lee Su-yeon said, “As the Animal Welfare Act was revised in February this year, punishment was strengthened, but cases of abuse are still frequent. I think that the current civil law, which classifies animals as ‘products,’ needs to be revised. It makes animals impossible to get right that guarantees a suitable environment for their living. Also, it lowers the degree of punishment and damages for animal abuse. To solve these problems, civil law amendments must be preceded. I expect that it will be the first step for the strong protection of animal rights.”
In the past, people used the expression “pet” in the sense of adopted animals cuteness and being entertained to humans. But nowadays, it is being replaced by the expression “companion animal” with the perception that animals are not toys but companions living with people. However, despite these changes, many people still think of pets as a means of satisfying human pleasure. Lee Su-yeon also added, “We live in the age of 15 million pet households. Pets are now part of our family. We must never forget that animals, not only pets, have their precious life and feel pain like humans. Works to protect the animals must be continued.”
Park Ji-won, Lee Da-young firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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