Gov’t seeks tougher laws on abuse of pets

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Gov’t seeks tougher laws on abuse of pets

Korea is seeking to bolster its animal protection and regulatory rules to help curb the mistreatment of pets, the government said yesterday.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it will send a revised bill on animal protection to parliament in the coming months. The proposed law would establish prison terms for offenders and would double fines.

Under the proposed changes - which would take effect in the second half of 2011 upon approval by lawmakers - someone who violates the law could face a prison term of less than one year and/or be ordered to pay up to 10 million won ($8,500) for cruel treatment of animals.

The maximum incarceration period and the size of the fines would be extended for repeat offenders.

In the past, offenders were subject to a fine of less than 5 million won, which critics have claimed is inadequate to curb abuse.

The ministry said regional governments will be empowered to rescue, treat and protect animals from abusive owners. In addition, all pet owners will be held responsible for abandoning their pets.

More than 20 percent of Korean households have pets, however there has been a steady increase in pets being abandoned by owners, causing social and health problems, officials say.

“There will be a grace period so ... registration can take place. Nationwide registration of pets will be completed by January 2013,” said Lee Sang-soo, head of the ministry’s animal quarantine division.

Registering animals with local authorities is expected to make it more difficult for owners to abandon their pets and to speed recovery if an animal is lost.

Lee said that some rural areas may be exempt.

The new standards also will call for more rigorous oversight of laboratory animals, to ensure that they are treated in an ethical manner.

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