As South Korea's pet market continues to grow, with over 10 million of the country's 51 million population owning companion animals, various businesses are emerging to cater to pet owners and their beloved animal friends. However, amidst this growth, there has been a rise in illegal pet rental businesses that offer customers the experience of owning a pet without the responsibility or commitment of a long-term relationship.
According to animal rights groups, there appears to be an unknown number of people offering pets for rent in recent years, despite it being illegal under the current Animal Protection Act. The act states that a person making profit from renting out domestic animals could face a fine of up to 3 million won.
“It’s hard to know exactly how many pet rental businesses there are across the nation, but I expect quite a few, boosted by the growing pet market here,” said Chae Il-taek, an official at the Korean Animal Welfare Association.
He went on to call pet rentals a "dark side" of Korea's pet scene, highlighting the case of a father who borrowed a dog for three days because his child kept pestering him to adopt a pet, even though he had allergic rhinitis. Il-taek explained that "temporarily raising and abandoning pets can be a form of animal abuse. Dogs and cats feel extreme stress when being put in a new environment. Also, there are possibilities for abuse by some bad owners.”
While individuals' rental of animals is against the law, there are some exceptions. Animals may be rented for the purpose of filming, experience programs or for other educational purposes. As a result, the majority of pet rental providers primarily cater to people in the media and entertainment industry.
One online company, for instance, recently posted an advertisement to lend a white Pomeranian puppy at 150,000 won for two days, but the service is only available for customers who will have photoshoots with the puppy. Another rental shop in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province is lending more various types of animals, ranging from small pets like guinea pigs and corn snakes to bigger ones such as prairie dogs, goats, and horses, to individuals and companies who need them for photo or video shoots.
In conclusion, with the pet market in South Korea continuing to grow, it's important for authorities to keep a close eye on illegal pet rental businesses that offer customers the experience of owning a pet without the responsibility or commitment of a long-term relationship. This can lead to a form of animal abuse, as pets are taken out of their familiar surroundings and put into new environments, which can cause extreme stress and potentially lead to abuse.