Dangerous breeds banned from daycare centers, kindergartens, & elementary schools
SEOUL––Cracking down on possession of dangerous dogs for the second time since dogs killed a one-year-old child and a 53-year-old woman in October 2017, the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Rural Affairs on March 20, 2019 served notice that it will not tolerate activities by advocates for dangerous dog breeds that put the public at risk.
Owners of pit bulls, Rottweilers, tosas, and other designated dangerous breeds “will be banned from taking their dogs to education facilities, such as daycare centers, kindergartens, and elementary schools,” reported Kang Yoon-seung of Yonhap News, the largest news agency serving South Korea.
$884 fine for showing off “service pit” in a schoolroom
“Other areas off limits to such animals will be announced by cities and provincial governments individually,” Kang Yoon-seung explained.
Violations will be penalized by fines of one million won for a first offense, worth $884 in U.S. dollars. The fines may triple for multiple offenses.
South Korea has had no known dog attack fatalities since October 2017, none by pit bulls or other “bully breeds,” and the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Rural Affairs means to extend the present 17-month safety streak.
Also on March 20, 2019, the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Rural Affairs introduced new regulations which “will require owners of dog breeds known for aggressiveness to receive mandatory education on how to properly raise such pets,” Kang Yoon-seung wrote.
Owners of “fierce dogs” must educate themselves
“The ministry categorizes Tosa, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, and other related mixed breeds as being fierce dogs,” Kang Yoon-seung continued.
“Owners of such dogs need to complete education programs for three hours every year, which can be carried out online. The program will center on understanding the nature of fierce dogs, and ways to train them to behave.”
“Those abandoning fierce dogs can be fined up to 20 million won or sentenced to up to two years in prison, the ministry added,” Kang Yoon-seung said. “This punishment is more severe than the three-million won fine currently imposed on people who abandon regular dogs.
Three years if off-leash dog kills someone
“If any dogs kill a person due to the negligence of the owners, including in cases where the dog is not on a leash, the owner can be sentenced to a prison term of up to three years, or be fined up to 30 million won,” Kang Yoon-seung added. “The previous rules had a ceiling of a two-year term or fines of less than seven million won.”
The online training programs for owners of dangerous dogs are currently available only in Hangul, the official language of both South and North Korea.
“The ministry said it has not yet prepared programs for foreigners residing in South Korea with such pets,” Kang Yoon-seung finished.
Since the materials have not yet been published in English or other languages, foreign owners of dangerous dogs might be unaware of the new requirements, a South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Rural Affairs spokesperson acknowledged, and even if aware, might have difficulty complying with them.
“Fierce” dogs already banned by U.S. military
“We currently do not have data on the number of owners of such fierce dogs, including foreigners,” the spokesperson told Kang Yoon-seung. “But, if necessary,” the spokesperson added, “we may prepare programs for foreigners in the future.”
The 28,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea are unlikely to be affected. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have banned pit bulls, Rottweilers, wolf hybrids, Dobermans, chows and their mixes from base housing since 2009. The U.S. Air Force issued similar orders in 2011.
The U.S. Navy does not allow any pets on shipboard. Regulation of pets in Navy housing ashore is left up to base commanders.
Serious bites quadrupled in five years
The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Rural Affairs began moving to prevent proliferation of dangerous dog breeds after the Korea Consumer Agency reported that the number of serious dog bites nationwide had more than quadrupled from 245 in 2011 to 1,019 in 2016.
The Korea Consumer Agency turned out to have significantly understated the damage. The National Fire Agency told the Korea Herald that 1,889 people had been transported to hospitals after dog attacks in in 2014, and 2,111 in 2016.
South Korea, like much of the developing world, had historically taken a lenient attitude toward dogs running at large. The chief penalty, for most dog owners, was the risk of losing a dog to dog meat bunchers, an occupation fading over the past 30 years with declining demand for dog meat.
South Korea by 2017, however, had long since ceased to be either a developing nation or a largely agrarian society where––apart from the risk from dog meat bunchers––non-aggressive dogs could safely run loose.
Seoul Metropolitan Government data from 2016-2017 showed that of 2,027 cases of dogs found running at large public spaces, only 62 owners were cited. That statistic, in combination with indications that bigger and more dangerous dog breeds were coming into vogue, prompted the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Rural Affairs to act.
Victim lost leg; pit bull owner got 18 months
The immediate catalysts included a December 2016 pit bull attack on a 70-plus-year-old woman and her small dog in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. The woman lost her right leg and several fingers. The pit bull owner was in September 2017 sentenced to serve 18 months in jail.
The sentence was rendered coincidental with a four-dog mauling of a couple in their forties “while they were strolling in a park in North Gyeongsang Province,” reported Korea Herald writer Kim Da-sol.
French bulldog & Jindo kill
Circa October 1, 2017, a French bulldog belonging to K-pop boy band Super Junior member Choi Siwon ran out the open front door of the Siwon family apartment in Seoul, while in custody of Choi Siwon’s father. The French bulldog, who had bite history, raced into an elevator, where he cornered and bit a 53-year-old woman, surnamed Kim, who with her sister owned the upscale Seoul restaurant Hanilkwan.
The woman died from septicemia several days later.
Amid the ensuing media tumult, on October 5, 2017 a seven-year-old Jindo dog jumped over a two-foot baby fence to tear open the neck of a one-year-old child as the mother carried the child into the living room of their apartment in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province.
“The mother rushed the baby to the hospital, but she was pronounced dead four days after the attack. The baby’s father, to whom the dog originally belonged, was not at home when the attack happened,” reported Kim Min-joo of the Korean Herald.
Expanded list of dangerous breeds
The first round of governmental response, announced in January 2018, included expanding an existing list of restricted dangerous dog breeds from three to eight, largely to intercept pit bulls masquerading under other names; a five-fold increase of fines for dogs at large without collars or muzzles; a potential three-year-jail term for owners whose dogs kill someone while running off leash; and 20 cash rewards of about $95 paid per year to people who photograph dogs without a collar or muzzle in such a manner as to enable law enforcement to catch the owners.
The South Korean pet dog population was officially estimated at 1.6 million in 2015, but has been unofficially put as high as 2.7 million, a figure which appears to include dogs sold for slaughter.
Deaths per million dogs
The distinction between pet dogs and “meat dogs” has always been blurred, because while some dogs are farmed specifically to be eaten, the slaughter trade has historically been fed by strays caught running at large and sold by local dogcatchers; culls from breeding to serve the pet trade; and culled hunting and fighting dogs.
The two 2017 fatalities meant that South Korea in 2017-2018 had a ratio of not worse than .7 human deaths per million dogs.
The U.S. over the same two years had a ratio of .54 human deaths per million dogs, overall, but had 8.2 human deaths per million pit bulls, compared to just .21 human deaths per million non-pits.