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Activists slam animal rights law over ‘Heart’ case

The apparent brutal abuse of a missing dog by villagers is causing controversy over animal welfare in Korea, with an activist group heaping blame on the country’s lax animal protection law.

An Old English Sheepdog named Heart was found butchered on Sept. 28, two days after the owner reported it missing, according to Iksan Police Station in North Jeolla Province.

The police, holding three villagers in custody over charges of burglary, said a thorough investigation is needed to determine if the case involved animal abuse. 

A photo of Heart, who was later found slaughtered and eaten.
A photo of Heart, who was later found slaughtered and eaten.
Citing Heart’s case, Cho Hee-kyung, a representative of Korean Animal Welfare Association, denounced what she called a “loophole” in the animal protection law here which protects only living animals in cases of theft or burglary. 

Cho told The Korea Herald that “the law regarding animal protection prohibits people from owning, selling or killing animals on the street.” She added that “no rules specifically mention that eating them is against the law, as long as you believe they are dead.”

The three of the suspects denied any wrongdoing and claimed that they had thought the dog was already dead when they found it on the street, police said.

On Wednesday, hundreds of citizens posted angry responses on the homepage of the lksan Police Station website, pushing the police to get tough on the case.

“Even if he was dead in the first place, you should hand him over to the family, not eat it,” the owner of the dog said. Calling for strong punishment for the culprits, he added “Heart was more like a family member than a pet.” 

The tragedy came after Heart escaped from his owner’s house last month, frightened by the sound of a door slamming. The owner posted flyers and searched throughout the village the next day, only to return home empty handed.

Heart was reportedly injured in a car accident after running away, and captured later by the suspects, police said.

By Bak Se-hwan (