Pooch protection and profit: South Korea to overhaul pet sector

Thu Jul 7, 2016 12:54pm EDT
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By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea aims to regulate the increasingly common ownership of pets in a bid to promote an unsupervised sector that the government sees as economic growth opportunity, and to crack down on animal abuse and neglect.

Measures announced on Thursday will enable South Koreans to legally operate services for pets such as animal cafes, hotels and funeral parlors, while imposing stiffer punishment on breeders found using unsanitary or inhumane methods.

Pets were once rare in South Korea, a country where the consumption of dog meat was widespread though it has declined sharply during the rapid modernization of recent decades.

"We know we are a bit late, but we are aiming to become a developed country in terms of the pet industry," Kang Chong-suk, director of the finance ministry's general policy coordination division, said in a telephone interview.

"There were absolutely no regulations and many illegal activities were being carried out."

Nearly 22 percent of South Korean households last year had at least one pet, up from 17.4 percent five years earlier, a trend fueled by the rise in single-person households.

At the same time, there has been a jump in the number of abandoned pets.

The government expects the measures will help the industry increase revenues from 1.8 trillion won ($1.56 billion) now to 5.8 trillion won in 2020.   Continued...

Veterinarian Kwon Beom-suk examines a dog at his animal clinic in Seoul, South Korea, July 6, 2016. Picture taken on July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji