While South Korea’s pet-owning population grew significantly in recent years, so did the number of animal abuse cases, which are often ignored due to the fact that animals in the country have no legal status. That makes it difficult to bring potential abusers to heel.
However, animal abusers and those who abandon their pets will soon face harsher punishment, thanks to government plans to amend its civil code in a bid to grant animals legal status, according to Reuters.
The amendment, which is expected to be approved in September, would make South Korea the latest of a handful of countries to recognize animals as beings, with a right to protection, enhanced welfare, and respect for life.
Currently, South Korea’s animal protection law states those who abuse animals may be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison or fined 30 million won ($25,494). That, however, rarely happens because the standards to decide penalties have been low as the animals are treated as objects under the current legal system, Choung Jae-min, the justice ministry’s director-general of legal counsel told Reuters.
Once the amendment is passed, and the Civil Act grants animals ‘personhood’, judges and prosecutors will have more options when determining sentences, Choung said, adding that the amended civil code will also pave the way for follow-up efforts such as life insurance packages for animals and the obligation to rescue and report roadkill.