Pet Parade: S. Korea fights animal abuse

By AL SWANSON, United Press International  |  July 10, 2011 at 5:30 AM
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South Korea's Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is doubling fines on people convicted of cruelty to animals.

The National Assembly last week approved tougher laws that carry a possible one year jail term and a maximum fine of $9,400 (10 million won) for animal abusers. The new law, which had been sought by animal-rights advocates, is effective Jan. 1.

"We take it as a significant step that animal abusers may soon be punishable by imprisonment," the Korean Society for Animal Freedom told The Korea Herald.

The law was enacted following several high-profile animal abuse cases where a dog meat festival in suburban Seoul was canceled last weekend because of pressure from animal-rights activists.

In one incident an animal-rights group offered a $940 (1 million won) reward for the arrest of a man who was videotaped beating a dog to death with a piece of wood.

In another case, two security guards at a Seoul apartment building were caught beating a cat to death. The cat had survived being pushed from the 13th floor of the building, the newspaper reported.

The new law also requires dog owners to register their animals beginning in 2013, to cut the number of lost and abandoned pets.

The National Assembly said the tougher stance "represents the people's increasing concerns over ill-treatment of animals."

The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission is drawing fire from some quarters for a proposal requiring "the humane acquisition of pets."

The effect of the proposed new law would be to ban nearly all pet sales within city limits -- dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, amphibians and even aquarium goldfish. It's intended to take the profit away from puppy mills and other inhumane animal production operations.

San Francisco residents, who would still be able to legally purchase a pet from small breeders, would be encouraged to adopt animals from shelters.

"Large-scale, commercial breeding operations add millions of animals to the system. These animals are sold for profit, leading to many documented humane issues such as: overcrowded living conditions, lack of socialization, overbreeding, in-breeding, poor veterinary care, and poor quality of food and shelter," a copy of the commission's talking points obtained by National Review Online said.

Critics say the law won't work because pets will be readily able available in nearby cities and online.

"Pet sales will be banned in San Francisco, but in all the cities around it they won't. And you still can get pets from the Internet," John Chan, manager of Pet Central, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Others say the initiative would put a few San Francisco pet stores out of business but would not have any effect nationwide.

The Los Angeles Times didn't waste an opportunity to razz the city by the bay, which has recently banned most fast-food Happy Meals and will vote in November on a measure to ban male circumcision.

"The ban wouldn't affect animals sold for food, so city residents could still buy a live crab to boil in a pot of water for dinner, just not to keep in an aquarium. Live tilapia to grill, no problem, but a splendidly colored Siamese fighting fish for a fishbowl?" the Times asked in an editorial. "This is a foolish proposal, and the Board of Supervisors should ignore it."

The Times said San Francisco would do better by mandating spaying and neutering of most dogs and cats to reduce the number of unwanted animals.

"But San Francisco should reduce animal cruelty by getting rid of the cruelty, not the animals," the Times said.

In June, the Los Angeles City Council asked the Department of Animal Services to come up with an ordinance banning sale of factory-bred animals in pet stores as well as commercial breeding of dogs, cats, chickens and rabbits.

A pet store in New York's trendy West Village says it won't sell puppies to intoxicated customers.

Le Petit Puppy on St. Christopher Street is surrounded by bars and many would-be customers stumble into the store to pick up a pet on impulse. A pedigreed puppy at the shop can cost $1,200 to $3,000.

"When they come in drunk, we try to impress the responsibility of it (pet ownership)," sales assistant Andrea Crocitto told the New York Daily News. "We get really attracted to the dogs, and we want them to go to a good home, but people feel a connection and say they can't live without that dog."

CitiPups, another pet store on the same fashionable street, also won't sell an animal to a drunk customer, the Daily News said.

Store staff usually tell the inebriated customer to come back after sobering up.

Odds and Ends

High-tech electronics for dogs and cats have gone beyond the ID microchip.

The latest gadget for roaming pets is from Spotlight GPS Pet Locator, a free iPhone app that notifies pet owners when an animal leaves the yard with an e-mail message or a phone alert, and then tracks it.

A history of the pet's roaming for a week is available on the Spotlight Web site.

The rechargeable device on a pet collar allows one to track a pet's location turn-by-turn in real time and has a bright, switchable LED to make it easier to find the pet in the dark.

The cellphone app also is available for Blackberry devices.

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