Sindh govt's bill acknowledges animals' inalienable rights

KARACHI: In order to provide rights to animals, the Sindh government has decided to introduce a law to free animals from all kinds of abuse.

In this connection, the Sindh Cabinet approved on December 30, 2017, a draft bill – Sindh Welfare and Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 2017 – under which animals will be granted inalienable rights to adequate nourishment, appropriate shelter and life in an environment free of abuse.

According to government officials, the law is an attempt to promote and protect welfare of animals. “The law will pave the way to treat injured animals, to house the homeless and comfort the abused,” reads the proposed law.

According to the bill’s aims and objectives, animals have the right to live in an environment free of abuse, nourishment and shelter. The bill states that violation of these fundamental rights of animals results in the degradation of the natural and moral fabric of society.

“The law will make it illegal to cruelly kill, beat, kick, ill-treat, overload, torture, infuriate or terrify any animal,” said Livestock and Environment Minister Muhammad Ali Malkani.  He added that other things that cause unnecessary suffering to animals, including transportation of animals in congested vehicles, fighting or baiting of animals and administering poisonous or injurious substances without good reason will also be punishable by the law.

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“The government is serious in this case and very soon this bill will be passed in the Sindh Assembly,” Malkani said. The livestock minister, however, did not mention specific date when the bill would be presented before the assembly.

Official sources in the livestock department said there has been a law on animal rights in Pakistan but after the 18th Amendment, the issue of animal rights has been devolved to provinces and so provinces should legislate on the matter. “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890 exists in Pakistan but since there is no implementation on it, the law is lying dormant. Now, Sindh is bringing a new law [for animal rights],” an official said.

A copy of the draft approved by the Sindh Cabinet available with The Express Tribune refers to Treaty of Amsterdam which came into force on May 1, 1999 and includes a protocol on animal welfare designed to ensure respect for the welfare of animals as they are sentient beings.

“Under this law, the government will constitute a board which will include official and non-official members. The board will work independently under the guidance of the government. The board will endeavour for proper implementation of the law,” the bill reads.

According to the bill, violators of the law will be punished depending on degree of abuse suffered by the animals. “Minimum three months and maximum three years’ punishment will be awarded to violators of this law,” the proposed draft reads.

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Dr Rashid Pirzada, a veterinarian who holds a doctorate on animal production from the United Kingdom, said developed countries have animal control departments where animal control officers are appointed to deal with cases of animal abuse. “These officers have powers of magistrate [and they] punish people who abuse or neglect animals,” he said, adding that in Pakistan, where enforcement of human rights was a big challenge, guaranteeing animal rights was a more arduous task.

“Nothing is impossible. We can [ensure animal rights] but it needs determination on the part of government,” the animal enthusiast remarked.

Dr Pirzada referred to the British era when the law on animal rights was implemented in letter and spirit. “Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1890, which was passed for entire Subcontinent, the incharge veterinary officer of a particular area had powers to take action against animal abusers,” he said.

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“A society for the prevention of cruelty to animals was established in Karachi in 1878 by a group of animal lovers who organised a public meeting at Frere Hall,” he said, adding that the society was functional till 1980s and it managed am animal shelter home in the city. A Swiss lady, Constantine, was the president of the society which could not continue after her death, Dr Pirzada said.

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