When we enter the house, there is a presence, waving their tails to greet us. It's a pet. They are becoming like family members living together beyond the meaning of animals in our society. In other words, Korea is quickly entering the pet-family era. In January 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said through the comprehensive plan for animal welfare from 2020 to 2024, they will consider introducing the pet tax from 2022.As the number of abandoned animals increases each year, related costs increase, so households with pets can come up with institutional devices that cover certain costs. Therefore, the pros and cons of many people have become a big issue. However, it is opposed to the idea that carrying out the pet tax would result in more people abandoning pets. Also, the tax itself would be wrong to the general principle of taxation.
First, more people will abandon companion animals. Supporters of the pet tax argue that the tax can prevent fast-growing abandoned animals. It is because people will be expected to be more cautious about welcoming pets into theirfamily as they invest some additional costs. However, what should the approximately 5.11 million people who already live with their pets do? With the increased financial burden from taxes, the possibility ofabandoning their pets themselves could increase. Of course, Korea's pet tax is still under consideration, so the exact amount is not measured. That is why the pet owners are worried that the amount of taxes to be determined later will hurt the household economy. In fact, according to data from theNational Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service, "72 percent of pet owner's households earn less than 4 million won a month, and about 32 percent of them are elders who live alone or low-income people with less than 2 million won, which includes people alienated from society." Under these circumstances, if a policy is implemented to deepen the economic burden on pets, many people who cannot afford it could abandon them. This runs counter to the purpose of introducing a pet tax, which guarantees pets' right of happiness through prevention of animal abandonment. Therefore, the introduction of a pet tax will serve as an opportunity to give up on raising existing pets.
Second, the pet tax runs counter to the general principle of taxation. Taxes should be collected in areas where income occurs. Raising companion animals does not result in any income but will only incur additional costs such as feed, beauty and medical expenses. Especially in the case of animal hospital bills, there is no clear standard for setting the amount, which requires payment according to the amount required by the hospital. With the implementation of the Ministry of Economy and Finance plan to impose a 10 percent value-added tax on pet care fees since 2011, the burden on people who raise companion animals is getting heavier. It is unfair to them to pay additional taxes to their partners who are spending their lives for their pets. Questions are also being raised about whether the taxes paid by pet owners will be used to ensure the welfare of pets intact. According to Lee Ki-jae, president of the Korea Pet Industry Retail Association, the pet industry already pays about 3.4 trillion won in indirect and various direct taxes. In addition, he also mentioned ‘In 2020, the social cost of protecting abandoned dogs is about 20 billion won.’ Even with the budget already secured, it seems that it can fully cover the social costs required for animal welfare in society. In the absence of benefits or welfare that people living with their pets actually feel, it seems simply a justification for securing taxes.
Third, it is too early to implement the pet tax in Korea. South Korea has not even implemented the animal registration system it introduced to prevent abandoned animals. According to the ‘2017 Public Cognition Survey Report on Animal Protection’ conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, only 33.5 percent of households that raise dogs actually registered. Would introducing a new law, ‘the pet tax’ really work when even the policies that are already in place are not being implemented? In the case of Germany, one of the world's top animal welfare states, people are united for various animal welfare programs, with the focus of the law, ‘Animal and human beings are equal creatures in the world.’ At a time when social awareness of companion animals has not improved, it is premature to collect taxes like in advanced countries. Korea should first come up with institutional mechanisms to improve people's awareness, such as owner education about their pets and animal licenses. In addition, there is no specific standard for how far the animal is currently in the pet tax. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, households with pets totaled 23.7 percent of the total population as of 2018. Among them, dogs and cats accounted for the largest portion, but rabbits, birds, fish and other animals were found to account for about 3.1 percent. It is not appropriate to take the same tax by designating the growing variety of companion animal types as one large category of ‘companion animals’ without considering separate criteria. Starting a policy with ambiguous standards could cause greater confusion in the future.
It is undeniable that a large budget should be secured for pets’ welfare. However, Korea still lacks a sense of companion animals compared to the fast-growing number of companion animals. At first, Korea treats companion animals as "objects" owned by individuals under civil law. It is different from Germany, advanced country in animal welfare, which puts priority on animal welfare. If social support and system are not preceded by the introduction of pet tax, it will cause even the animals that were raised to give up. This will counter-productive, which is different from its initial purpose. Also, South Korea has not even come up with a specific standard for levying the current pet tax. If the policy is implemented under-prepared, it will cause more problems, including confusion among people and an increase in abandoned pets. Therefore, it is opposed to taking a pet tax in Korea.
Proponents of the pet tax expect it to make people be more cautious before welcoming the companion animal into the family. And they believe this can help improve the quality of life for their pets and themselves. However, opponents of the pet tax argue that the economic burden will increase the number of abandoned animals. The lack of specific standards for companion animals also poses a problem. Amid the ongoing conflict over the pros and cons of the animal tax, it is hoped that a solution will be presented that can be agreed upon by both sides.