“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawaken” – Anatole France
FOR a long time, our laws fell far short of modern-day expectations on animal welfare protections.
For instance, under the Summary Offences Act, Chapter 11:02, passed some 99 years ago, the punishment for animal cruelty in this country was a paltry fine of $400 or two months in prison! I’m happy to say, though there’s still a lot more to be done, new legislation has come into effect giving animal rights a significant boost!
This new legislation, which came into effect on June 1st 2021 by proclamation of the President (see Legal Notice No. 148 of 2021) is the Animal (Diseases and Importation) (Amendment) Act, No. 21 of 2020 (hereinafter called the new Act) which amends the Animal (Diseases and Importation) Act, Chapter 67:02.
Among other things, the new Act created a bundle of offences carrying a whooping punishment on summary conviction of a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for five years! Obviously designed to place more responsibility on those in control of animals, here’s a summary of 12 of those offences which can be found under section 28(3):
- Torturing, beating, injuring, mutilating, neglecting or treating any animal with cruelty or overloading any animal;
- Working any animal that is unfit to work (e.g., though lameness or emaciation) in any plough, carriage or other vehicle;
- Being involved (e.g., by owning or managing the place used for the offence) in bull baiting, cock fighting or other similar activities of any animal whether domesticated or wild;
- Not giving your animal a “sufficient and suitable diet”;
- Not giving your animal access to “sufficient and clean water”;
- Nor providing your animal with proper shelter and housing appropriate for the animal’s behavioural patterns and reasonably sufficient to protect the animal from unsuitable weather conditions, including the risk of injury or death from flooding and other natural disasters;
- Not giving your animal veterinary care when needed to treat and prevent suffering and disease;
- Not providing your animal with suitable accommodation during transportation;
- Not giving your animal “humane care and treatment”;
- By permitting an act that causes unnecessary suffering to an animal, including suffering caused by exposure to fireworks;
- Throwing the carcass of an animal into a river, stream, drain or watercourse;
- Placing any animal part in a public place.
I encourage you to read the new Act (available online) to get the exact wording of the above offences and to become familiarized with the many more offences it created. It is important to note that this new Act does not only apply to cats and dogs. “Animal” is very broadly defined (see section 6 (a) – it includes:
- mammals (warm blooded animals whose young are nourished with milk e.g., monkeys);
- reptiles (cold blooded animals, usually with their skin being covered by scales or bony plates e.g., iguanas, snakes, and turtles);
- amphibians (cold blooded animals that don’t have scales e.g., frogs); and
- all animals of whatever kind, whether domestic or wild, and embryos of any kind of animal.
I remain of the view that we need to spell out the standards of protection now being afforded to our animals, if these laws are to have the effect we want it to have.
For example, if I am to transport my cow in “suitable accommodation,” the laws need to set standards on what is considered “suitable accommodation.”
Something we see every day: is trying the cow at the back of a truck open to the elements “suitable accommodation”? Or am I required to have covered transportation? By leaving these aspects so vague and subject to interpretation, law enforcement may not know how to act as they would not know what is permitted before the law considers the act (or omission) to be a breach of the law.
Nevertheless, animals certainly have more rights than they did before and I look forward to seeing action being taken against animal abusers in every corner of our country. Be safe T&T.
Copyright © 2021 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a
Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.
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