Posted : 2012-04-24 19:18
Updated : 2012-04-24 19:18

Animal abusers spark uproar

A dog tied to the back of a sedan is being dragged along the Seoul-Busan Expressway near Seoul, Saturday. The dog was later found dead. A witness took a photo and reported it to an animal rights' group.
/ Captured from Internet

By Kim Rahn

Does an animal have rights or does it belong to an owner like property?

Korea takes the latter position and acquitted a dog owner of animal abuse despite the abuse involving dragging the dog on the road behind his car.

The incident, which Internet users call “Devil Equus,” took place on April 21 and was spread online after a witness took a photo of the scene and alerted an animal rights’ group.

According to the witness, a dog was being dragged along the Seoul-Busan Highway at around 12:13 a.m. The dog’s leash was tied to the trunk of the Equus sedan.

“I saw an unspeakable thing while driving on the expressway toward Seoul. Driving the luxury sedan, the driver may be highly educated, or have a lot of money and he was trailing a dog from the trunk of the car while driving very fast,” the witness said.

He continued that the dog was already dead as the dog’s internal organs had ruptured and the road was stained with blood. “Other cars running behind the Equus had to keep enough distance from it in case the leash came loose.”

Another witness said the Equus stopped after other cars honked at it, adding the driver, discovering the dog’s situation, looked baffled.

As the episode was posted online, there was uproar of people calling to punish the owner for animal abuse.

The next day, a person who claimed to be the owner’s acquaintance posted a message and said the owner put the dog in the trunk thinking the dog might make the car dirty.

“But he thought the dog may be short of oxygen if the trunk is shut, so he opened the trunk. But as the car sped up on the highway, the dog fell out of the trunk. After learning this, the owner was dumbfounded as well,” the person said.

But the explanation made bloggers angrier. “Is that an excuse, worrying about the car getting dirty? Is the car more important than a life?” a blogger said.

Some others didn’t believe the explanation, saying the trunk shown in the photo was shut tightly.

The Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE), an animal rights’ group, filed a complaint with police on Monday.

Checking the license plate, Seocho Police questioned the dog owner but cleared him of the suspicion. “The car owner was drunk and had a replacement driver drive the car. We recognized he didn’t intend to abuse the dog, so we cleared him of the accusation and closed the case,” a policeman said.

Light punishment on animal abuse

Animals’ rights groups were furious about the way the case was resolved and held a protest in front of the police station in southern Seoul. They claimed the animal abuse charge should apply whether or not the offender intended to abuse.

“Currently, only those who clearly intend to abuse an animal are punished. It is controversial whether accidental homicide applies to animals. So far, no one has been charged for ‘accidentally’ killing an animal because Korean law regards animals as ‘property’ and not having their own rights,” Jo Hee-kyung of the Korean Animal Welfare Foundation said.

She said advanced countries punish people who don’t properly take care of animals. “They have legal criteria for animal care or transportation, so those who fail to abide by the legal guidelines and it results in injury or stress in the animal, they are punished. We don’t have such rules.”

According to the revised animal protection law which took effect in February, those abusing animals are subject to up to 10 million won in fines or up to one year in prison. But no one has been jailed yet, Jo said.

She said the state can take an abused animal away from the owner and protect it but the measure has limits. “The owner can claim it back if he or she pays the expenses which the state spent for keeping it. The state can’t deprive the owner of the animal because the animal is ‘property,’ while many other countries focus more on the animal’s right to life.”

CARE began collecting signatures for an online petition to set up a law banning animal abusers from raising animals again. More than 30,000 people signed in three days.
관련 한글 기사

‘악마 에쿠스’에 동물학대 비난 작렬

동물은 자기만의 권리를 가지고 있을까, 아니면 재물처럼 주인에게 속해있는 것일까?

한국은 후자의 입장을 취하고 있고, 이에 따라 자동차에 개를 매달아 끌고 간 주인이 동물 학대에 무혐의 처리가 되었다.

지난 21일 발생한 ‘악마 에쿠스’라고 불리는 이 사건은 한 목격자가 사진을 찍어 동물보호단체에 신고하면서 알려지게 되었다.

목격자에 따르면 새벽 12시 13분쯤 경부고속도로에서 개가 목줄이 에쿠스 자동차 트렁크에 묶인 채로 도로 위에 끌려가고 있었다. 이 목격자는 “경부고속도로 서울쪽으로 달리다가 어처구니없는 광경을 보았다. 에쿠스 타는걸 보니 배울만큼 배운 분이거나 못배웠어도 돈은 좀 버신 분 같은데 트렁크에다 개를 목매달아 잘도 달리시더군요”라고 말했다.

이 목격자는 또, 개는 내장이 터져서 피를 도로에 묻히고 있는 상황이었다며 “뒤따라오는 차들이 목줄이 풀려 개가 떨어질까봐 거리를 두고 가고 있었다”고 말했다.

또다른 목격자는, 다른 차들이 경적을 울리자 에쿠스 차량이 정지했고, 운전자가 상황을 파악하고는 당황한 듯 보였다고 전했다.

이 사건이 알려지자 사람들은 개 주인을 처벌하라고 목소리를 높였다.

다음날 에쿠스 차량의 지인이라는 사람이 글을 올려, “개를 차 안에 두자니 차가 더러워질 것 같아서 트렁크에 넣었다고 한다. 그런데 트렁크를 닫으면 산소가 부족할까봐 트렁크를 열어놓았다. 그런데 속도가 붙으면서 개가 밖으로 떨어졌고, 이를 알고 주인도 망연자실했다”고 말했다.

그러나 이 해명글은 불난데 기름을 부은 격이었고, 한 네티즌은 “차가 더러워질까봐 그랬다, 이걸 변명이라고 합니까? 한 생명보다 차가 더 중요합니까?” 라고 비난했다.

몇 네티즌들은 사진상으로 보면 트렁크가 닫혀있다며 해명을 믿지 못하겠다고 했다.

동물사랑실천협회는 경찰에 고발을 했고, 서초경찰서는 번호판을 확인해 차량 주인을 소환해 조사했다. 그러나 경찰은 “차 주인이 술에 취해 대리기사가 차를 몰았다. 고의가 없었다고 보여 무혐의 처리했다”고 밝혔다.

동물보호단체들은 무혐의 처리에 반발해 서초경찰서 앞에서 시위를 열기도 했다. 이 단체들은 동물 학대는 의도와 상관 없이 처벌받아야 한다고 주장했다.

동물자유연대의 조희경 대표는 “동물 학대의 의도가 명확한 경우에만 처벌을 받는다. 과실치사를 동물에게 적용하는 것에는 논란이 있는데, 우리나라 법에서는 동물을 동물권을 가진 개체로 보지 않고 재물로 보기 때문에, 현재까지 동물 과실치사로 처벌된 경우는 없다”고 말했다.

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