New Draft Animal Welfare Act looks to safeguard animal rights – A voice for the voiceless
Posted on March 1st, 2015

By Apsara Kapukotuwa Courtesy Sunday Times

World Animal Day was celebrated on October 4 with no great fanfare. But there is little doubt that the issue of prevention of cruelty to animals deserves much attention in present-day society.

One of Sri Lanka’s most antiquated laws that sets out offences and penalties for mistreatment of animals is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, No.13 of 1907 (last amended in 1955. Unfortunately the shortcomings of this law are many. Now comes the welcome news of a ‘Draft Animal Welfare Act’ that promises many heartening changes.suren

This was drafted by the Law Commission of Sri Lanka, upon conclusion of the hearings of those who responded to the press notice asking for the views of the public and community-based organizations. The Draft Act provides for the right of intervention on behalf of animals: the right to plead the cause of those beings who cannot articulate their suffering.

The norm has been to treat animals as ‘chattels’ or ‘private property’ rather than a ‘person’ in the eyes of the law as animal-owners have exclusive rights under the present law. However, clause 44, of the Draft Act which deals with the right of intervention, provides room for “an Animal Welfare Inspector or an officer of an Animal Welfare Society to intervene in court proceedings in the interests of the welfare of the animal”, “where an animal becomes a subject of court proceedings”.

More animal sanctuaries are also envisioned under the Draft Act which would prevent the animal from being relegated to a “prison farm”. Another welcome change and timely change is that penalties for people and organisations found guilty of offences have been greatly increased.

The maximum penalty for cruelty in the existing Act (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance) was Rs. 200 or three months imprisonment. The maximum penalty for cruelty in the Draft Act is Rs. 50,000 or three years in prison.

The Draft Act also proposes the establishment of a National Animal Welfare Authority to administer the Act. Interestingly the Draft Act applies to all animals-including ‘strays’ who were not previously included in the law.

“Animal” has been defined to include any living creature other than a human being and includes domestic animals, farm animals, animals in captivity and wild animals.

Responsible care and use of animals through the adoption of the legal principle of duty of care and the appointment of animal welfare inspectors by the authority are two other central features of the Draft Act.

The Draft Act also bans home slaughter.”An overwhelming majority, during the hearings conducted at the Law Commission, wanted the banning of home slaughter,” said Senaka K. Weeraratna, an Attorney-at-Law who is the honorary legal consultant on animal welfare legislation to the Law Commission. This is prohibited under clause No.30 (1).

In an article on “Animal Welfare Legislation in Sri Lanka” (2003) Mr. Weeraratna points out that “the grant of temporary permits under the Butchers Ordinance for slaughter of animals, especially in private homes in urban areas during religious festivals, has caused environmental pollution, raised fears of the spread of disease in congested areas, threatened public hygiene and consequently generated public agitation against the home slaughter of animals”.

The Draft Act also deals in detail with the issue of the use of live animals for scientific purposes which includes obtaining a permit from the authority and availability of alternative methods and devices that do not involve experimentation on live animals.

The Draft Animal Welfare Act is now available for public comment at the Law Commission of Sri Lanka. The Commission hopes to conduct a public seminar towards the end of November, where the final recommendations would be entertained.

Courtesy: Sunday Times Plus ( October 17, 2004)

See also

‘Sunday Times’ today ( page 4 of March 1, 2015)

Long overdue Animal Welfare Bill up for Cabinet approval

By Chandani Kirinde



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