Starting next year, those who commit cruelty to animals in Korea may face a jail term of up to 1 year or a maximum fine of 10 million won ($9,400).
The Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said Monday that a revision to the animal protection law, which entails the toughened penalties for pet abusers, is to take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
Currently, the heaviest penalty is a fine of 5 million won.
The ministry said that the revision, which passed the National Assembly last week, “represents the people’s increasing concerns over ill-treatment of animals.”
Korea, as well as the persistent controversy over eating dog meat, has long been criticized for lenient punishment of cruelty to animals.
Public awareness of animal rights, however, rose sharply following a series of highly-publicized recent cases.
In one of such cases, a man was caught on video last month beating a dog nearly to death with a piece of lumber. When the cameramen arrived at the scene, the offender had already escaped. An animal rights group has offered a 1 million won reward for the capture of the offender, who has not been traced.
A more recent case involves security guards at the apartment building in Seoul. Two of them pushed a cat off the 13th floor of the building, and when they found the cat on ground, still breathing, they beat it to death.
Animal rights group hailed the revised law.
“We take it as a significant step (toward animal rights) that animal abusers may soon be punishable by imprisonment,” the Korean Society for Animal Freedom said.
The revised law will also compel dog owners to register ownership with local governments from 2013. The number of pets abandoned or lost on the street topped 100,000 last year, rising sharply from 25,000 in 2003, the ministry said.
By Lee Sun-young (email@example.com