Debate erupts over proposed ban on puppy auction houses

Animal rights activists hold a rally in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, Jan. 23, calling for the abolishment of puppy mills. Yonhap

A proposed bill aimed at cracking down on puppy mills, where dogs are often bred in cramped and unsanitary conditions for sale, has sparked mixed reactions from both animal rights activists and dog breeders.Activists strongly support the bill, which aims to eliminate the third-party dealer chain in Korea’s pet industry, believing it could effectively end the unethical practice by breeders who keep animals constantly pregnant in unsanitary conditions. However, dog breeders oppose what they perceive as an excessive ban, arguing that it infringes on their freedom of occupation. Consequently, they are advocating for alternative measures.Commercial pet shops are the most prevalent channels for acquiring companion animals in Korea, where nearly 15 million people have at least one pet, with 11 million owning dogs.

Many dogs sold in those shops are sourced from puppy mills. In these facilities, female dogs are often confined in filthy cages, subject to constant pregnancies. And the puppies born there are traded at mass auction houses.Many puppy mills, including legally registered ones, operate in substandard conditions due to legal loopholes and inadequate government monitoring. Puppies just days old are often traded at auctions, despite the Animal Protection Act, which prohibits the sale or adoption of dogs under 60 days old.In September of last year, around 1,400 dogs hoarded in cramped cages were rescued from a legally registered puppy mill in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, according to local animal rights group WEACT. Approximately 100 dog carcasses were discovered in a refrigerator there, while many surviving animals were found to be suffering from poor health conditions.

Dogs are seen in cramped, unsanitary cages at a puppy farm in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, in this photo taken in September 2023. About 1,400 canines were found at the facility, according to local animal rights group WEACT. Courtesy of WEACT

In response to calls from animal rights groups for stricter regulations on puppy mills, Rep. Wi Seong-gon of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) proposed a revision bill to the Animal Protection Act in November of that year aiming to strengthen regulations on pet dealers.Under the proposed law, cats and dogs aged under six months can no longer be sold by a pet shop or commercial dealer unless they have bred them. Animal trade at mass auction houses will be banned, implying that individuals must obtain pets directly from licensed breeders or adopt them from rescue centers.Additionally, if enacted, the law will prohibit breeders from subjecting dogs and cats aged 60 months or older to pregnancy and from breeding more than 100 canines in a single facility.The proposed bill is similar to the “Lucy Law” introduced in the United Kingdom in 2019. The law was named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm in 2013, where she endured cruel treatment, serving as a breeding dog throughout her entire life.Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA), one of the biggest animal rights group here, urged the swift legislation of the bill.

“Despite the shameful reality of approximately 130,000 pets being abandoned every year in Korea, over 200,000 pets are being sold per year, due to the vicious cycle involving puppy mills, auction houses and pet shops. As this mass production and sales system is driven solely by profit, related businesses not only fail to adhere to animal welfare standards but also abuse animals for breeding purposes,” it said in a statement released in January.On the other hand, dog breeders and pet shop owners have voiced strong objections, arguing that what they describe as a malicious law will result in the collapse of the whole pet industry.”Auction houses serve as not only a marketplace between breeders and pet shop owners but also as a venue for communication and exchange information about the market,” a coalition of the owners of those businesses said in a statement in late January.They also emphasized that the ban on auction houses could lead to the creation of black markets and called for alternative measures such as coming up with guidelines 스포츠토토존 for auction business owners.

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