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Husband’s murder sparks pet vs human debate

Oct 12,2017
A national debate over animal rights has been ignited after a woman stabbed her husband to death for yelling at their dog.

On Oct. 4, the day of Chuseok, a woman in her 40s stabbed her husband in the neck with a knife in their home in Paju, Gyeonggi, after he swore at their dog for barking, she later told police. The couple’s child, an elementary school student, called the police. The man died in the ambulance and the wife was arrested.

“I do not understand her motive,” said a Twitter user on Tuesday. “Her dog must have been more important to her than her husband.”

“I cannot understand how the wife could say she killed him out of self-defense,” wrote a Facebook user on Tuesday. The woman had told authorities she attacked her husband because she “feared for her life” after seeing him yell at the dog.

“The man was killed here because his life wasn’t worth more than the dog’s,” wrote another Facebook user.

The latest death is one of many involving pets.

A 13-month-old baby died after she was bitten by a 7-year-old Jindo dog at an apartment in Siheung, Gyeonggi, on Friday. The dog reportedly jumped over a 60-centimeter (23-inch) fence that encircled the baby.

“Jindo dogs are known to have a strong sense of social hierarchy,” said a police officer, “so the dog probably saw the baby as an enemy at home.”

In another case, a 38-year-old was booked in August by police in Nowon District, northern Seoul, for threatening the owner of a pet hotel where his Bichon Frise was killed by a Siberian Husky.

“My dog is like my child to me,” the owner had written in an online community.

In yet another case, a woman in her 40s was fined 3 million won ($2,638) in April for obstruction of duty and contempt of authorities after she brought her dog into a fast-food restaurant in Ulsan in 2014, despite the restaurant employees’ protest, and let it walk around and even relieve itself. She swore at police when they arrived.

The number of cases where a pet bit a person or another pet increased from 616 in 2013 to 1,019 in 2016, according to Korea Consumer Agency. From January to June this year, 766 cases have been reported. The number of pets in Korean households broke the 10 million mark in 2015, according to the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency.

Some experts are calling for more education for owners to form healthy relationships with their pets.

“Until now, much of the education on pets concerned how to train them, but now I think the educational programs must start to focus more on how pet owners can form adequate and healthy relationships with their pets,” said Park So-yeon, CEO of Care, an animal protection agency based in Seoul. “Local governments must increase efforts to help pet owners and those without pets communicate peacefully.”

“Conflicts involving pets can get violent because people refuse to see things from the other side,” said Jeon Hyung-joon, professor at Dankook Center for Dispute Resolution in Gyeonggi. “Pets who seem innocent in the owners’ eyes can behave in unexpected ways in different situations. Preventative measures need to be a priority.”

Others refuse to see the growing number of incidents as a serious social issue.

“It’s premature to take a few of these cases involving pets and call them a ‘pet-over-human’ phenomenon,” said Lee Soo-jeong, professor of criminal psychology at Kyonggi University in Gyeonggi. “In the Paju incident, I think the wife probably killed the husband not because of what he did to the dog, but out of anger bottled up over time in their relationship.”

BY JEON ICK-JIN, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]