- Illegal animal production facilities turn pets into commodities
ON A jet-black night, a dog gets into the car with delight. He always loved driving with his master but something seems strange today. His master is unusually silent and does not even look at him. The car stops on the side of the road where no one is passing by. His master puts him down on the ground and gets back in the car. With a squeal of tires, the car drives away. Although he becomes a little bit scared, he does not panic because he believes that his beloved master will return and take him home. On a jet-black night, curled up on the cold ground, the dog endlessly waits for his master who will never come back.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, more than 8 million pets were abandoned in South Korea last year. Although various attempts have been made over the past few years to prevent animals from being discarded, the number of abandoned pets has been increasing every year. This phenomenon mainly arises from the widespread misconception that pets are “consumable products,” rather than “living things.” In fact, more people are purchasing pets without carefully considering their ability to raise them. They simply buy a cute-looking pet then throw it away when they realize the cost and effort to raise it. In fact, Edaily reported that when Sang Geun—a celebrity pet which appeared on a reality show called One Night Two Days—gained popularity, there was surging demand for the breed. But when people realized the difficulty of raising a Pyrenean Mountain Dog*, they abandoned their pets.
The idea that pets are expendables led to the emergence of dog rental services. In 2007, FlexPetz, a company that offers pet containment systems, introduced a “Rent-a-dog” service for single-person households, teenagers without siblings, families with cancer patients, or those who were simply curious about raising pets. However, in 2008, new bills that prohibit the rental of companion animals were passed both in the United States and the United Kingdom. Those who proposed the measure stated that the business would encourage irresponsibility to dog ownership and promote the idea of “disposable pets.” Furthermore, people were concerned about the pets’ stress that would inevitably follow after constantly being exposed to unfamiliar environments. Eventually, the controversial dog rental service was shut down.
Although an amendment to prohibit “Rent-a-dog” service in South Korea was proposed in 2015, it could not pass the National Assembly. Safety problems exist within this service since there is no qualification process of service users and no way to track the dogs when they are lost. Then, what should be done to solve numerous problems regarding abandoned pets? First and foremost, the number of pets produced illegally should be reduced. According to the manager of Daily Vet, as many as 300,000 dogs are produced annually in South Korea, while only 150,000 dogs are on demand. With the supply of puppies teeming and the pool of buyers limited, prices of pets curtail, making it possible for people to buy them on a whim. This allows people to buy pets irresponsibly and strengthens the idea that pets are commodities.
Thus, the most urgent matter that should be settled is to cut back the excessive production of animals with firm legal actions. Animal protection groups estimate about 3,000 animal production companies in South Korea, with only 180 of them officially reported. These unauthorized facilities imprison pets and inhumanely force them to mate. When the pets’ use is depleted they are buried alive or disposed for food. These brutal and illegal animal facilities flourish under the feeble regulations.
In order to eradicate these unauthorized factories, additional terms regarding the industry must be included in the animal protection law. For example, only experts in animal breeding who have obtained official authorization should be allowed to breed animals. Moreover, specific standards should be set to ensure a pleasant environment for animal production facilities. Officials should closely monitor whether the law is being followed and the government should toughen penalties for violators. To fix the fundamental problem of abandoned animals, the system regarding animal production should be reformed in a way that reduces the number of pets being produced.
*The Pyrenean Mountain Dog: A large breed of dog used as a livestock guardian dog, also known as the Great Pyrenees in North America
Seo Ji-hye firstname.lastname@example.org
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