Improve the pet registration system

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Improve the pet registration system


Dogs and cats are quite different pets. We say that dogs are loyal yet messy while cats are neat and prim. The yellow Labrador retriever in “Marley and Me” may be the typical active dog. How about the cat featured in Naoko Ogigami’s “Rent?a?Cat?” The stray was rescued by a young woman and settles at her home but still behaves with elegance. I had a good laugh when I read a joke on the difference between a cat and a dog. A dog thinks, “People give me food and a place to sleep. They must be God.” But a cat thinks, “People give me food and a place to sleep. I must be God.”

In Korea, 3.59 million households, about 17.9 percent, have dogs or cats, according to a 2012 survey by Korea Social Economic Institute. In total, 4.4 million dogs and 1.16 million cats are raised as pets. They are part of the family. You play with them, let them exercise and provide treatment when they are ill. Pet owners have trouble dealing with the deaths of their animals. Zoologist Konrad Lorenz confessed that after his dog died he continued to hear the pooch’s steps for some time. Some pledge not to have pets again after painfully parting with a beloved animal.

So it would seem like a no-brainer to register your dog or cat in a new system designed to prevent abandonment and make it easier to locate lost pets.

Under revised regulations, pet owners can visit a local veterinarian and choose one of the three options - microchip insertion, an external wireless device or an identification tag. But progress is very slow. According to the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, just 91,742 dogs have registered nationwide between January and March. In total, 307,163 dogs, or only 7.68 percent, are now in the system.

Low participation is not entirely because of a lack of awareness. Some local governments are not actively encouraging pet owners to register because of limited funds, and the registration process is not uniform. In Seoul, pet owners can apply for registration and get the chip at the veterinarian office in one visit, but other regions require separate visits. Also, some pet owners are concerned about the safety of microchips manufactured in China. In the snazzy Gangnam District in southern Seoul, officials use a different chip, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

A vet also pointed out that past records from microchip insertion have not been merged with the current system. Veterinarians also often complain about very low payment for performing the chip insertion procedure.

Dog owners will be fined up to 1 million won ($898) unless their pets are registered by July. Before the expected chaos becomes a reality, authorities need to improve the system.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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