The Agriculture Ministry said Sunday that it would be beginning a survey of all animal breeding farms, but that under current law it would be difficult to penalize those operating illegally.
The announcement came after public outcry over the unsanitary and cruel conditions of a dog breeding farm in South Jeolla Province that was broadcast recently on a local TV show. The program showed hundreds of female dogs locked in tiny cages, forced to become pregnant and give birth repeatedly in squalid conditions.
Some of the puppies were even delivered via crude cesarean sections performed by unlicensed veterinarians.
Activists protest in front of the Government Complex in Seoul on May 19. (Yonhap)
Animal rights groups such as the Korean Animal Welfare Association claim that there are approximately 3,000 such illegal breeding farms currently in operation, but only 188 are registered with local governments in accordance with the Animal Protection Act.
The low registration rate is attributed partly to the fact that under current law, the only penalty for running an unregistered breeding farm is a fine of up to 1 million won ($840). Animal rights activists say that breeders can easily make up for that penalty selling just a few dogs.
A joint press conference was held by activist groups including the Korean Animal Welfare Association and Korea Animal Rights Advocates on May 19 to demand the government’s investigation into animal cruelty at breeding farms and increased oversight.
A spokesperson with the Agriculture Ministry was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying that once the scale and severity of the situation was accurately assessed, the ministry would consider beginning discussion about increasing penalties for illegal operators.
By Won Ho-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org