Baby strollers are for human babies. However, this seemingly obvious fact longer seems to be the case, as it is so easy to see people walking their dogs — or rather, pushing their dogs — in strollers that are designed for pets.
How, you may ask, did this sight become so common? According to the Korean Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, the number of pets in Korea has increased steadily: there were about 7 million pets in 2015, and in 2017, the figure spiked to about 10 million — 70 percent being dogs. This means that in South Korea, which is inhabited by 51 million people, one of every five people is a pet owner. Naturally, such increase in pet ownership has led to an increase in the size of the pet industry.
On top of that, because employment has become a difficult issue while living costs keep rising, adults no longer have enough money saved up for marriage-related costs, such as a house. Hence, they have resorted to living a single life with pets. According to Kennel Club Korea, more unmarried couples are adopting pets, with the adoption rate showing a sharp growth of 16 percent since 2015. The Kennel Club made sure to emphasize that it is not only unmarried people who are contributing to an increase in pet adoption, and that in particular, married women who enjoy high standards of living are also inducing the expansion of the pet industry.
This growth of the pet industry generates exorbitant expenditures on pet commodities on the part of pet owners. The price of a pet carrier or stroller is around $1,000—a figure not much different from that of a baby stroller. Other pet accessories, such as clothes, beauty kits, and organic foods, cost the average pet owner around $1,500 per month. That is a whole lot spent on pampering a fur baby.
The spending does not stop here, however, since pet luxuries have recently begun going far beyond everyday necessities and accessories. Services for fur babies have taken up another big portion of pet owners’ expenditure. Bianco Italia, a comprehensive pet care solution company based in Cheongdam-dong, one of the wealthiest districts in Seoul, provides services for not only grooming but also birthday parties and education that provides “stimulating brain activities.”Bianco Italia’s dog grooming service ranges from 90,000 won (approximately $78) to 150,000 won (approximately $129), depending on the size of the dog. This luxury service consists of aroma therapy, spa, and even massages catered to the individual “preferences” of each dog. According to Ms. Hyunseo Kim, the general manager of Bianco Italia, “more people are considering pets as family and are ready to invest as much into their pets as into their child."
|[Bianco Italia in Cheongdam dong. Photo by Mingyu Kim]|
Ms. Kim says that despite the steep prices of the services, many pet owners seek pet care facilities in order to keep their “babies” (word commonly used by Korean pet owners to refer to their pets) trained and healthy. “We offer education through ‘pet kindergarten,’ and teach all kinds of house manners, off leash training, and interactions with people and fellow dogs.” For health, Bianco Italia closely monitors pets’ physical well-being by giving healthy food, rest, and urine tests, and the company also has various facilities that could aid dog training and health: pools, grassy areas for running, and even obstacle course hurdles.
|[Pet at Bianco Italia’s dog kindergarten, doing dog hurdles. Photo taken by Mingyu Kim]|
Some clients seek such facility simply to give joy and be attentive to their dogs.They rent venues and host birthday parties for their pets. The host’s friends, as well as their pets, would be invited to celebrate the fur baby’s special day. Ms. Kim is proud to provide chandeliers, china plates, and premium-grade food for both pets and people at Bianco Italia’s birthday party venue.
|[A dog’s birthday. Photo taken by Mingyu Kim]|
For some, a pet may equate to a friend. For others, a pet may be the equivalent of a human child in value. It is up to the pet owners’ discretion to provide whatever they desire for their pets. However, because the fine line between caretaker and family is being blurred by spending excessive amounts of money on pampering pets, we may have to take some time to reflect upon whether we are giving enough attention to the people we encounter on a daily basis.
Shepherd International Education
Mingyu Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
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