South Korea aims to regulate the increasingly common ownership of pets. As Hayley Platt reports, it's a bid to to crack down on animal abuse and promote an unsupervised sector that the government sees as economic growth opportunity.
These are some of South Korea's pampered pooches. But there are many more that aren't. Official figures for last year show 82,000 were abandoned or lost. The government says it wants to crack down on animal abuse. And sees an opportunity for making money too. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) SOUTH KOREAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF STRATEGY AND FINANCE, YOO IL-HO, SAYING: "We will create an industrial infrastructure for animal hospitals, pet products and insurance, along with measures to protect pets and owners and thoroughly reforming the system." Under the new measures Veterinary nurses will have to be licenced. Insurance companies will be encouraged to offer more specialist pet policies. And Koreans will be able to open properly registered animal cafes, hotels and even funeral parlours. While fines for abandoning pets will be tripled. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) VETERINARIAN OF NURIBOM VETERINARY CLINIC, KWON BEOM-SUK, SAYING: "They should have started this process a long time ago. But it does seem like a landmark decision for the pet industry." The government expects the pet industry to quadruple by 2020 to around 5 billion dollars. Support for animal shelters will also be increased. So will the punishments for those convicted of cruelty or neglect. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) 50-YEAR-OLD SOUTH KOREAN DOG OWNER, KIM NAN-JOO, SAYING: "There should be stronger penalties for people who breed dogs because they've cute and then abandon them." Last year nearly 22 percent of households owned at least one pet. The rise is being fuelled by an increase in single person households. It also helps that consumption of dog meat - once widespread - has sharply declined.