In the heat of early August at the start of summer, we received numerous reports and photos of animals in distress.
On such a hot day, animals are being displayed in a parking lot.
Those animals are showing abnormal behavior.
Flies are gathering on the feces.
The place was a museum called Dalasil in Chuncheon, a city about one and a half hours drive north-west of Seoul. We went to the scene to investigate.
Just as there are suitable and unsuitable environments in which people can live, each animal too has its own habitat in which it can comfortably live. If you want to display animals for people’s entertainment, at the very least, you have to provide the minimum suitable environmental conditions.
Prairie dogs belong to the prey group. In the wild, prey animals feel safe only when they are able to hide from predators. But these animals were being on exhibited in glass boxes, fully exposed on every side. The Prairie dog cage, on which there was a sign stating that it digs a burrow more than 5 meters below ground, was in a space of just 1.6m2 with little sand on the floor.
Elevated cages are usually used on dog farms for the convenience of removing feces. It is very painful for a four-footed animal to stand on. The cages for the Raccoon and Arctic fox were the elevated cage type. As its name suggests, the Arctic fox lives in polar regions; Northern Europe, Alaska, and Russia. Even with air conditioning, it reaches up to 30°C in a Korean summer. The Arctic fox was displayed in the cage with no air conditioning. It looked very tired and stayed next to a block of ice left in the cage. It was not moving, only panting heavily.
We met the person in charge. He was aggressive and defensive from the outset, and claimed he’d majored in “Pet Studies” (Yes, that’s what he said!), but seemed utterly unaware of the suffering of the animals under his ‘care.’ Other facility managers showed up and said “We bought the animals from a company that breeds and sells animals. We will return them if it continues to be a problem. We exhibit these animals for our guests since there is no zoo in Chuncheon.”
We called the local government and discovered that it had given Dalasil permission to display the animals. There was nothing we could do except send them guidelines for improving the conditions in which the animals were kept. These guidelines included environmental conditions, environmental enrichment, and health checks for the animals on display in the parking lot.
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The fundamental problem is the unregulated breeding companies. After the animals are sold, their welfare is entirely in the hands of the purchaser who is not required to demonstrate an understanding or awareness of how to adequately provide for the animal’s well-being. The breeding companies do not check-up on the welfare of the animals they have sold, because for them the animals are just a product from which to profit.
As we have said before, the widespread ignorance of how to care for animals, and the attitude that animals are just things, causes abuse which could easily be avoided with just a little education and stronger regulations surrounding the sale, transportation, and the keeping and display of animals.
If you want to help, consider becoming a donor so that we can continue educating our communities and talking to lawmakers to make Korea a better place for all the animals with which we share our country.