Planting Microchips in Dogs

In a country that is known to eat dogs, Koreans are now encouraged to tag pet dogs with a microchip to ensure the dog’s security. At least that is what the government is saying.

A law requiring dog owners to register their pets was passed earlier this month. Now, a new system that enables owners to “tag” their pets with microchips went into a pilot period starting Monday in two large districts: Jung-gu, a major district in Seoul, and Seongnam- a satellite city south of Seoul. (Seongnam’s population is about 925,000, similar to San Jose)

The law was made to prevent people from abandoning their dogs. All dogs older than three months will have to go to a registered animal hospital, get registered and be tagged.

The owner can choose a collar with an embedded tag, or have the tag inserted directly into the dog. This microchip is embedded into the dog’s skin, in the neck behind its left year. It is 2.1mm wide and 12.3mm long- like a long grain of rice- and is inserted using a needle. It contains information about the dog (it gets its own registration number like a SSN) such as gender, breed, birth date, and the owner’s name address, contact number. (What if the owner doesn’t know the birthday?)

As soon as the dog is registered, that information goes into a government-run database, so that if the dog is lost or abandoned, it can be tracked back to its owner. It does not have a GPS tracking device, however. The information on the dog is deleted from the database when it dies; if the owner changed, the owner must report the change.

It is interesting that while most tracking devices bring along issues of privacy, that wasn’t much of a matter in this law. Even the name of the law is the “animal protection law” with this new clause pertaining to the “welfare” of dogs.

This law is currently in a three-month pilot phase, meaning it is being tested in these two districts. The actual law will go into effect October next year. Registering/tagging a dog will cost about $20.

Government officials noted that this system is required only for pet dogs (probably to avoid confusion with dogs used for meat) but even that was ironic because dog meat is not legal in Korea. It’s not illegal either, but because it isn’t legal, FDA doesn’t inspect the meat that is served at dog meat restaurants. Basically, those who eat dog meat are responsible for any potential risks. I’ve never had any dog meat, but there are afficiandos- even those who adore their pet dogs. Hm.

I think the major reason this tagging system only concerns dogs is because of the possibility of one’s pet going into the black dog meat market. Our dog disappeared once, and I always have the bad feeling that he may have ended up on someone’s table, so I’m pretty much accepting of this law, though I’m sure some people will claim that it’s not healthy for the dog and blah blah.

ALthough the law is a national one, regional governments have to be the ones who implement it. Seongnam took up an early initiative, because it says that 20,000 dogs are being abandoned every year. If you ask me, I’d say that those baaaaaad dog owners should be tagged or put on a website like those that they use for sex offenders.

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