‘Dog paparazzi’ rule delayed indefinitely in South Korea
Government says financial rewards for those who report pet owners who violate new leash laws could ignite further conflicts
By Kwak Yeon-soo
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said Thursday it will implement stricter rules and enforce heavier fines against owners who walk around without putting a leash on their dogs.
This comes after growing calls for stricter animal laws sparked by a series of fatal dog bites, including the death of a woman who was bitten by a French bulldog owned by K-pop idol Choi Si-won of Super Junior.
Those who do not put a leash on their dogs in public could be fined up to 500,000 won (US$467), which is five times heavier than the current rule.
A fine for first-time violators will be 200,000 won (US$186); 300,000 won (US$279) for the second time and 500,000 won for the third. The initial fine was over 50,000 won (US$46.50).
A rule governing dog muzzles will also come into effect.
If a dog is one of five government-designated “dangerous dogs,” including Tosas, pitbull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, Rottweilers, and their mixed breeds, it will have to wear a muzzle in addition to being leashed outside.
“I think the new dog safety measures are improvements of current animal laws. Pet owners cannot control their dogs properly without a leash. I was anxious whenever I saw large dogs running unleashed in areas where I frequently walk with my Maltese dog,” said Kim Hyo-bin, a 27-year-old pet owner in Seoul.
On the other hand, animal rights activists worry that stricter leash and muzzle rules will result in conflicts between pet owners and non-pet owners.
“We do believe that the ministry’s rule is well-intentioned. But making dogs wear muzzles can mislead people into thinking that certain breeds of dogs are dangerous,” said Chae Il-taek, an official from the Korea Animal Welfare Association.
“We must not define individual characteristics of a dog by its breed. Specialists should determine whether a dog is aggressive or not.”
Meanwhile, the government’s decision to financially reward those who report pet owners for not leashing their dogs in public has been suspended.
The government had announced earlier that they were considering rewarding people 20 per cent of the fine for every case of a reported violation.
This rule has proven to be controversial as many pointed out that financial incentives may lead to the rise of “dog paparazzi” who secretly film pet owners for the sake of making money.
“We have reviewed both the positive and negative effects of introducing this rule but came to the conclusion that a rule allowing people to report offenders may ignite further conflicts,” said Song Ji-sook, a ministry official.
“Our task force team will continue to discuss implementing flexible measures that could settle a controversy.”
Although this rule has been suspended, the ministry said it will still charge dog owners who violate the rules.