(QCostarica) Approved Tuesday in first debate is the Ley de Bienestar Animal (Animal Welfare Act), with 50 of the 55 legislators of the Legislative Assembly voting in favour and four against (three legislators of the Movimiento Libertario and one from the Frente Amplio).
The initiative had the full support of the Executive Branch (government), that in the words of President Luis Guillermo Solis culminates into a reality the protection animals and making owners accountable, a project he says he was interested in even before the start of his presidential campaign.
The approved bill (that still requires second debate and the signature of the President) punishes with between six months and two years prison anyone who directly or through a third party, that “causes harm to an animal”. The injury includes leaving the animal in a debilitated state, persistent weakness in health, involves the loss of an organ, limb or causes sever pain or prolonged agony.
The law also punishes with prison time is from six months to and three years anyone, either directly or through a third party, who has sex with animals (zoophilia), dissect an animal in the name of research (if they don’t a have a permit from the Ministry of Science and Technology) or causes death to an animal maliciously.
The law exempts (from punishments) those engaged in fishing or livestock and veterinary activities, aquaculture, breeding and sanitary and phytosanitary control, reproductive control or hygiene of the respective species, agricultural, husbandry regulated by the National Animal Health Service – SENASA.
Also exempt from punishment are animal deaths for the sole purpose of personal or family consumption.
Among the other points in the law are:
The law will also requires owners of pets to ensure that the animal’s basic living needs are met and pick up fecal waste from public areas. Pet owners that do not provide basic sanitary conditions for animals or who do not collect their pet’s feces from public roads, are exposed to a fine of between one and two base salaries, currently between ¢ 424,000 to ¢ 848,000.
Also subject to the above fine is the promoting of animal fights of any species or raising, crossbreeding or training an animal to increase their aggressiveness (danger).
Abandonment penalized. The owner of an animal who abandons their pet and/or by their actions causes unwarranted injury or animal abuse may be sentenced to between 20 and 50 days imprisonment. The fine days are transformed into economic sanctions, in this case between ¢282,000 to ¢ 707,000.
In addition, the law aims to educate the public, from an early age, raise public awareness against animal abuse and train authorities on animal welfare.
The law establishes a series of actions such as:
- Animal welfare be incorporated into the grade school curriculum.
- Launch a Special Commission for the care of animals used as companion or emergencies.
- Train the 14,000 members of the Fuerza Publica (police) on animal welfare. To date, only 50 officers of the canine unit and 25 lawyers in various functions of the Fuerza Publica have been trained in this area.
- The MOPT (Ministry of Transport) and ICE begin with signage in national parks and protected areas to alert drivers of wildlife on the roads.
Second Debate. No word yet when second debate will occur. One of the oppositions to this bill is the leader of the Movimiento Libertario, Otto Guevara, who says the law violates the Constitution, will affect Costa Rican traditions (such as cock-fight), could do with productive activities, creates legal uncertainty and increases public spending.
The legislator says the writing of the law must be improved, the text lacks specificity and that he will send a query to the judges of the Constitutional Court for their observations and possible restructuring of the proposed law.