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Make sure animal welfare law really bites
Publication Date : 24-02-2013
With the recent spate of incidents involving animal abuse, it is timely that a new law has been drafted to add more bite to the fight against such inhumane behaviour.
The increase in the fines and jail terms that has been proposed in the Animal Welfare Bill deserves the full support of lawmakers when it is tabled in Parliament at the next session.
Apart from the revised sentences, the Bill also proposes that the formation of an enforcement agency be tentatively referred to as “Animal Cops”.
These officers will keep their eyes and ears to the ground, and monitor the treatment of animals on a sustained basis, rather than just spring into action when there is a report.
But, as various animal rights groups have pointed out, it is crucial that the responsibilities of these officers be clearly spelled out to prevent any abuse in enforcing the law.
Whether checks are conducted in known animal shelters and zoos or in quiet neighbourhoods, there must be transparency and accountability to ensure both the latter and the spirit of the law be fulfilled.
Veterinary Department director-general Dr Abdul Aziz Jamaluddin put the point across very well when he said: “Animals cannot talk, they cannot take to the streets and hold a demonstration. We need to have something punitive to act as a deterrent (against animal abuse).”
Beyond the obvious cases of cruelty, the authorities must also look out for cases of silent abuse, much like in human society where sometimes spousal abuse may not necessarily be physical in nature but can be traumatic emotionally.
Animal abuse is not just a street crime. It can also happen in the upper echelons of pet ownership, where it has become a status symbol of sorts to own pedigrees and exotic animals.
Bringing in a pedigree not suited to our weather, for example, is a form of animal abuse. And in buying pets for our children, we must be mindful that cute puppies become not-so-cute adults, and affection gives way to neglect if the children do not really know the responsibilities of pet ownership.
The law cannot monitor everything. At the end of the day, the key towards protecting the rights of animals is still making humans aware that animals have rights, and deserve to be treated with compassion.