Dogs are put in a pen on a dog farm. The government plans to categorize dogs as livestock to regulate the sanitation of farms raising dogs for human consumption. / Korea Times
By Kim Tae-jong
The Ministry of Environment said it will categorize dogs as livestock to regulate the sanitation practices of large-scale dog breeders.
The central and local governments have refrained from putting dogs on a par with cattle, chickens and other livestock as it means an official recognition of dog meat as food. Under the current law, it is theoretically illegal to butcher dogs and trade their meat.
As dogs are not currently listed as livestock, there are no legal grounds to regulate dog meat restaurants and those who breed dogs for human consumption. However, under the revised law, which will come into effect Sept. 28, large-scale ``dog farmers" must build facilities to handle the disposal of dog excretion and report it to regional authorities.
Dog farms have been one of main sources of pollution, as massive amounts of dog excretion are dumped into water and soil due to the absence of regulations, according to the ministry.
``The revised law aims to properly regulate dog farms and tackle the soil and water pollution in areas around them,'' an official from the ministry said. ``We have received a lot of complaints from local residents in areas where dogs are raised.''
The revised Livestock Night Soil Disposal Act requires dog farmers with facilities of 60 square meters to have proper waste disposal facilities and report them to local authorities by Sept. 27. Violators can face a maximum penalty of a one-year jail term or 10 million won ($10,000) fine.
According to the ministry, there are about 720,000 dog farms nationwide, raising some 2.3 million dogs as of December of 2005. The ministry estimated one third of them must follow the new regulations.
Still, the status of dogs remains ambiguous, depending on which laws you adopt.
However, laws on the trading of dog meat have yet to include dogs in the list of livestock, which means the authorities cannot regulate the trade of dog meat and inspect the sanitation of markets and restaurants selling dog meat.
This blurry definition of dog meat has resulted in the unsanitary status of dog meat even though many Koreans enjoy eating it. There were previous attempts to categorize dogs as livestock and recognize dog meat as food, but they were scrapped due to strong criticism from animal rights groups inside and outside of the country.
Civic groups opposing eating dog meat were reserved in their reaction to the Environment Ministry's move to classify dogs as livestock.
``Given serious pollution issues, we cannot simply oppose the move to regulate the night soil from dog farms,'' Jun Kyung-ok, director of the Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth, said. ``But we will keep an eye on how it will affect other issues, such as recognition of dog meat as food or legalization of the dog meat trade.''
Seoul City earlier this year planned to propose categorizing dogs as livestock, citing dog meat is suspected to contain harmful substances, such as heavy metals, antibiotics and bacteria due to the absence of proper regulations. But it fell short of carrying it through as it confronted strong criticism and only began inspections of restaurants that serve dog meat.