Animal abuse penalties to be intensified as animals will be granted with legal rights

연합뉴스 / 2021-07-19 18:01:01
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▲ In this photo, Jung Jae-min, an official of Department of Justice, is briefing on the 19th of pre-announcement for legislation of the newly constructed provision of the Civil Law stating that "Animals are not objects." According to current Civil Law Article 98, animals are considered as 'materials'. However if the laws succeed amendment, animals will be ruled of the 'object' category and will attain its own legal status. (Yonhap)



SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) -- The revision of the Civil Law, which now grants animals independent legal rights for the first time, is interpreted as a reflection of changed values nowadays, such as social interest in animal rights, which has come into spotlight as the population of companion animals has increased significantly.


The demand for amendment of the current law that considers animals as 'things' has been raised amongst animal rights organizations and some political authorities for several years.


In 2017, an animal rights association, Care, asked for a constitutional adjudication and filed a Constitutional Appeal, during a lawsuit for compensation for damages related to pet dogs, demanding for a revision of provisions viewing animals as 'things' but was rejected.


Former member of the Justice Party Lee Jung-mi also as a representative proposed a partial amendment of the Civil Act suggesting an additional clause to Article 98. The suggested clause stated that 'animals are not objects and in the extent in which animals are protected by a separate law, the provision of this law will be applied.' However the proposal was not properly discussed in the National Assembly. 


As a reflection of such social voices, the Ministry of Justice pre-announced the legislation of the amendment of adding Article 98-2 to the Civil Code stating 'animals are not objects' which specifies the legal rights of animals.


The purpose of this new provision is to exclude animals from the category of objects, but at the same time to apply the rules for objects except for some cases when there are special regulations in the law.  


If an individual harms or kills another's companion animal, due to the pet's legal right as an animal not an 'object', the inflictor is to be in deeper civil and criminal liability. 


The Ministry of Justice has announced that they are under discussion for setting ground rules enabling an individual to file for compensation to the inflictor in the case of injuring or killing a companion animal. 


According to the current Criminal Law, the accusation that can charge the inflictor with criminal penalties is property damage. But if companion animals are granted with status other than 'object', an editing of this kind of accusation seems inevitable.  


Although animals protection laws are also charging penalties for animal abuse, there are criticisms that law enforcement has been too poor until now. 


According to Lee Eun-ju from the Justice Party. cases of violation against animal protection regulations increased more than 10 times from 69 cases in 2010 to 914 in 2019. Despite this immense gap, those handed over to court were 304 and among them, those sentenced to prison were only 39. 


Deputy Director General of Legal Counsel, Jung Jae-min said, "The penalty levels of legal systems when viewing animals as a 'living being' and as an 'object' cannot be fundamentally,' and "If this case of pre-announced of legislation gets passed, we can expect the penalty level of future animal abuse to be readjusted."




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