< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >
These days pets are considered as parts of our family. About 30 percent of households have pets in Korea, according to the Korea Pet Food Association’s report on the ‘Current State of Pet Ownership and Public Awareness (2017)’. In such circumstances, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced the ‘Comprehensive Plan for Animal Welfare’ on January 14th and announced that it is willing to review the pet tax. In other words, the government will consider covering social costs related to pets with taxes on those who raise pets, and that triggered some controversy. While some claiming that the pet ownership tax is reasonable, others worry that such a system could increase the number of abandoned animals. Therefore, CAH decided to look at both sides of the pet tax.
One in four houses has pets now, and the number of households with pets is on the rise in Korea. Amid growing interest in pets, the government intends to come up with solution of rising social costs of pets in the long term. In this situation, one of the solutions is a pet tax, which the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs suggested. Let's look at the need for pet tax in three aspects: improving awareness, solving cost problems, and improving quality of life.
First, the pet tax influences improving social consciousness. In other words, people will be more responsible when deciding to raise pets. In fact, the number of abandoned or missing animals found in Korea stands at 121,077 in 2018, with the number growing. The reasons for abandonment vary, but it is generally because of financial burden. Woo Hee-jong, a veterinary professor at Seoul National University, said, "There is a problem of adopting animals too easily which ends up causing many to be abandoned. The basic purpose of a pet tax is ‘fostering a culture that is responsible for life.’" Therefore, the introduction of pet tax will reduce the number of households that raise pets. Meanwhile, some worry that the introduction of the pet tax will lead to more abandoned animals. It means the tax itself is so onerous that people will give up on the pets that they already have. However, the perception that a pet tax determines the abandonment of animals ignores the fact that other, more expensive financial costs, such as treatment costs, are incurred. That means the tax is not a direct cause of abandonment, but it is rather caused by a non-matured pet culture. If people truly love their pets, there is no reason to worry about this. Also, veterinarian Seol Chae-hyun said, "The pet tax should be imposed because there are people who expect the introduction of pet tax to increase the number of abandoned animals. People who begrudge having to pay a tax of between 50,000 and 100,000 won per year and abandon their pets shouldn't raise pets in the first place.”
Second, the pet tax solves the problem of increasing social costs. Currently, social costs related to pets in Korea are rapidly increasing. The government's budget of animal protection and welfare reached 13.58 billion won in 2019, a nine-fold increase compared to just four years ago. Local governments also spent nearly 204 billion won on animal protection centers last year. "There has been a constant increase in demands for various services such as protection of abandoned animals, expansion of animal convenience facilities, settlement of complaints of pets, easing the burden of medical expenses, and so on," said an official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. In response, the ministry said it would consider raising an animal welfare fund through a pet tax to use it for the installation and operation of animal protection centers or specialized agencies. Currently, they have been paying through taxes for their partners, as well as their non-pet owners, but from now on, owners must increase their financial burden to cover the insufficient budget. In other words, a reasonable obligation is inevitable to assert the right to be with a companion animal.
Third, the pet tax seeks to improve the quality of life for pets. It is because most of the pet tax will be used for pets’ welfare. In other words, pet owners can improve the quality of life of their pets as they pay the tax. For example, many developed countries already have a kind of pet tax. Germany, which is famous for guaranteeing animal rights under its Constitution, has already implemented a dog tax. In general, dog owners pay taxes starting at 100 euros a year, up to 600 euros depending on the weight, size, and breed of the dog. All the collected taxes are used for the welfare of dogs. These taxes make it possible for owners and their pets to use public transportation and walk through shopping centers. In The Netherlands, pet owners pay about 120 euros a year in taxes for each pet dog; and Singapore is requires about $70 SGD in taxes and get a permit. If the pet tax is introduced in Korea, it could lead a better life with the animals. Furthermore, it will make a positive change in the quality of life of pet owners as well as their pets.
The days of buying pets simply because they are pretty and cute are over. This is an era in which we live together with pets who are no different from our family. However, the demand and cost for pet-related services will increase along with the number of households that raise pets. Therefore, to solve the increasing cost problem and for a better society to live with our family, a pet tax should be seen as a good thing. Based on this discussion, CAH hope that animal welfare will be an opportunity to take a step forward.