Expert Opinion about ‘Pet Ownership Tax’- Woo Hee-jong (Professor of Department of Veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University)
I have read both the pros and cons written by reporters earlier. They pointed out the approval and opposition with very good arguments. I think that such conflicting opinions have been caused primarily by the government's attitude. The reason for this was that there was a lack of explanation from the government introducing the pet ownership tax and its plans. First, there are many problems with a word, ‘pet ownership tax’. A pet is a living creature, however, it has the legal status of an object in Korea. Therefore, the ‘Pet Ownership Tax’ is not a concept of ‘Cultivating’ animals, but rather ‘Holding them’. Korea's attitude toward pets as objects is contrary to the international community's desire to recognize them as living creatures, and not simply as things. This is why various animal problems such as animal abandonment issues have occurred in Korea. So, how can you clearly identify your responsibilities to your pets? I believe that a pet ownership tax can be an answer.
However, the pet ownership tax still has a long way to go. There are many steps necessary before the pet ownership tax’s legislation. First, we need to improve our recognition of pets. Over the last decade or so, the number of households raising pets has it is because of the media showing only pets’ cuteness. It led to a purely emotional view of animals. However, they did not show how hard living with the pets can be behind the scenes. The lack of discussion on how to treat pets as living creatures and recognize them as members of our society has caused confusion about this tax. If the government wants to impose a tax, they need to make proper use of the tax and as a method of taxation. However, they are not prepared for this, which is an example of how pet-related policies are currently criticized by professionals.
Currently in Korea, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs deals with pet-related policies. It indicates that the government still sees pets as livestock although our society has a negative perception of dog farms and dog-made soup now. This is in contrast to the United States, where pet-related work is shared by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Considering the U.S. FDA conducts safety checks on animal food, it seems urgent to change the government department in charge of pet policies in Korea. There is also a lack of institutions to study pet-related policies. Veterinary medicine is classified as health care because it deals with life. However, just a few of the state-run health and medical researchers deal with pets. The 20th National Assembly revised the Animal Protection Act to establish a state-run research institute for pets, which was defined by a Presidential Decree, but it failed to pass. As a result, there is no control tower to collect opinions from various stakeholders (veterinarians, civic groups, and etc), which makes it hard to develop it into a real policy.
To solve the above problems, we need to educate people about pets first. As mentioned earlier, in Korea, there is an over-emotional attitude toward breeding pets. In this situation, we need to educate ourselves in the way that we regard pets as living creature and embrace them as members of our society. To achieve this, it is necessary to take measures to make sure that pet companions must complete some pet awareness education when deciding to raise pets. Furthermore, it would be ideal for the government to conduct a consigned education so that everyone can be educated. This awareness training will allow people to deal with specific issues. In addition, introducing animal health insurance is the most visible way to help with the implementing this tax. In the meantime, animals have not been given disease codes, which means that each treatment may have very different costs depending on which clinic one visits. However, if animal health care is modified to unify pet treatment costs and collect taxes through insurance, the reluctance of introducing the pet tax would be greatly reduced. It also would be much easier for the government to plan a systematic budget using the pet ownership tax, which will not have such a backlash.
Also, the criteria for levying a pet ownership tax needs to be agreed upon. There are different kinds of pets in world. And other measures should be taken to assign different amounts depending on the family income of the pet owners. In a case of Europe, the pet ownership tax is about 10,000 won. If everyone recognizes the existence of the tax without a level of burden, the purpose of this tax can be achieved. Furthermore, through pet training, pets can be used in one-person household support projects such as with elderly living alone. With the pet ownership tax, we can also to solve both these social problems: pet abandonment and elderly living alone. Pets need to be recognized for their status as creatures beyond their possessions by people. Let's hope to become a Korean society with more respect for pets in the future.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >