South Korea is implementing new legislation to protect foxes, raccoons, meerkats, capybaras, and many other wild species from being exploited in “animal cafes,” according to CNN.

Animal cafes are often marketed as cute experiences for animal enthusiasts — but for the animals who are exploited by these businesses, they are stressful encounters. Animals at these cafes may endure overwhelming and unwanted touch in unnatural environments.

New changes to the country’s Wildlife Protection and Management Act will now only allow these wild animals into facilities registered as zoos or aquariums. The new law also makes physical interaction with non-domesticated animals illegal. Cafes caught allowing patrons to touch, feed, or climb on these animals can be fined up to the equivalent of $3,700.

Prior to this new law, animal cafes were only restricted against collecting or trading endangered species, and there were very few regulations regarding their care.

The changes come in part thanks to animal welfare advocates who have been pressuring the South Korean government to prohibit the use of wild animals in cafes, arguing that non-domesticated animals become stressed from being touched or confined in small areas.

As one example, the now-closed “Raccoon Cafe” received numerous complaints about children screaming and scaring the animals, and some patrons were bitten by stressed raccoons, according to news.

To help cafes find new homes for their animals, the new regulations give cafes four years to transition their business and register as a zoo/aquarium or shut down.

Lady Freethinker applauds South Korea for passing this important legislation that strengthens restrictions on placing non-domesticated animals in artificial confinements. While Lady Freethinker does not condone exploiting animals in zoos or aquariums, this is a step forward for the animals who have been harmed by animal cafes.

For another important article on South Korea changing legislation to protect animals, read how South Korea banned the dog meat trade.