Legal wins boost pet ownership in Singapore, South Korea

This comes after ending decades old practices that led to unfair and cruel treatment of these animals.

Cat High Fiving Human
Svetlana Sultanaeva |

Singapore and South Korea kicked off 2024 with a promise of better life for cats and dogs, respectively, by moving to end decades old practices that led to unfair and cruel treatment of these animals.

The separate developments with Singapore ending a cat ban on public housing and South Korea banning dog meat consumption completely, should have a strong positive impact on pet food companies as the presence of more pets could mean greater demand for pet food.

In Singapore, a 34-year ban on cat ownership in public flats is expected to be lifted later in 2024 as the state's Housing Development Board (HDB) finalizes the new policies that would allow households to own up to two cats per unit. To accommodate Singaporeans who want to own cats, the HDB will make microchipping and licensing of pet cats mandatory. There will be a two-year period for cat owners to follow this rule, which will establish ownership and accountability. As HDBs are usually multi-level buildings, cat owners are also required to cat-proof their units by installing screens on windows to prevent cats from escaping or falling down from windows or balconies located high above.

Singapore's cat population is expected to increase now that HDB residents are allowed to have two cats. Research firm Euromonitor International estimates there are some 94,000 cats are in Singapore today. Some 80% of Singaporeans (2023 population: 5.92 million) live in high-rise public buildings.

Meanwhile in South Korea, years of discussions and activities designed to completely eradicate the country's inhumane dog meat trade finally became a law when the National Assembly passed a special bill on Jan. 9, 2023 that bans dog meat consumption and all types of businesses related to it.

Dog meat consumption has fallen out of favor in recent years, especially among the younger group of pet owners. The new law strictly prohibits the breeding, butchering, distributing and selling of dogs for meat. It also calls for providing subsidies to help those in the dog meat industry to find new careers or start a different business. The government estimates around 1,150 dog farms, 34 butchering businesses, 219 distributors and approximately 1,600 restaurants that sell food made with dog meat in South Korea.

The bill received favorable votes from 208 parliament members and two abstentions. The ruling People Power Party (PPP) and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) have jointly pushed for the ban as South Koreans become more cognizant of animal rights as many of them become pet owners. The successful passage of the bill was also welcomed by South Korea's First Lady Kim Keon Hee, a known pet lover, who wanted to see the malpractice outlawed as it was a campaign promise made by President Yoon Suk Yeol.

There will be, however, a three-year period before the law takes full effect to give those in the business to find new livelihoods. By 2027, violators could face a maximum two years of prison sentence or a fine of up to 30 million won (US$22,768).

That is the same year that South Korea aims to build a 15 trillion won pet industry (approximately US$11.47 billion) with government-led initiatives. Over the last 10 years, the country's household pet ownership grew from 3.64 million in 2012 to 6.02 million in 2022. By 2027, South Korea aims to significantly increase its total pet food exports from US$149 million in 2022 to US$500 million.

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