Yesterday, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed the first ever Animal Welfare Bill in the country, designed to punish people who abuse or neglect animals. The Bill was passed by a vote of 188-1, with four abstentions.
The legislation covers domesticated pets, animals raised for food, working animals, animals kept for entertainment purposes, wild animals in captivity and animals kept for any other purpose.
Directives prohibit cruel treatment of animals and stipulate that owners/carers provide appropriate living conditions and a certain level of animal welfare.
The law allows police to enter homes and businesses to act on reports of animal cruelty. The maximum sentence for perpetrators is two years in jail and/or a THB 40,000 fine.
Animal rights groups however believe that the law is too vague and far too open to interpretation. Soi Dog Foundation co-founder and Vice President John Dalley, who advised the NLA on what should be included in the Bill, said “Whilst welcoming the passing of Thailand’s first Animal Welfare Bill as a step in the right direction, Soi Dog Foundation has serious concerns over the lack of clarity in the legislation. All other animal welfare laws throughout the world provide very specific guidelines to enable authorities to determine what is legal and what is illegal.”
Mr Dalley was referring specifically to a clause in the law which allows the killing of animals for food which are usually considered as food. The committee responsible for reviewing the Bill stated that dogs and cats are not considered as food in Thailand, and that therefore they are implicitly covered, but they have avoided explicitly stating which type of animals it will be illegal to kill for consumption.
Mr Dalley added “It’s similar to introducing a law on driving too fast. Without specifying speed limits, the decision would be left to individual police officers, and the courts, who may have different ideas as to whether a motorist was speeding or not”.
The issue was raised at yesterday’s parliamentary meeting, and a notation added to this effect, meaning that in the future a committee that is to be formed to manage the law may consider clarifying the issue. No mention is made in the law as to whether it is legal or illegal to kill a pet animal for its skin.
The north east of Thailand is home to Thailand’s dog meat and dog skin trade, which according to the Thai Veterinary Medical Association, has seen up to 500,000 dogs every year slaughtered and processed in Thailand or Laos, or exported to Vietnam and China for human consumption. The industry is run by organised crime gangs and is worth up to US $25 million per year.
Mr Dalley concluded “The only way a law can be measured for effectiveness is how it affects the level of crime it is meant to stop. The coming months will indicate whether the authorities are able to enforce the law as it stands now. Without clear guidelines we fear the authorities will be reluctant to act in many cases.”
About Soi Dog Foundation: Soi Dog Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2003, is a legally registered charity in Thailand, the United States, Australia, the UK, France and Holland. Our mission statement is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Asia, resulting in better lives for both the animal and human communities, to create a society without homeless animals, and to ultimately end animal cruelty. John Dalley, co-founder and Vice President, is available for interview.
For more information please visit www.soidog.org or www.facebook.com/SoiDogPageInEnglish.