Landmark animal welfare law 'falls short' on preventing cruelty

Landmark animal welfare law 'falls short' on preventing cruelty

Animal rights groups say the country's first law against cruelty to animals falls short of the mark, with particular concern surrounding stray dogs and birds freed from temples.

After more than a decade of campaigning by activists, the National Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed the Animal Welfare Bill by 188-1 votes.

But Chollada Mekratri, model and founder of The Voice Foundation, claimed further regulations are necessary.

“The bill overlooks stray dogs and some details are subject to interpretation,” she said.

The legislation covers domestic pets, animals raised for food and working animals. It prohibits cruel treatment and says owners must provide appropriate living conditions. 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 prison and/or a 40,000 baht fine.

Soi Dog Foundation co-founder John Dalley described the bill as “a step in the right direction”. But the charity has concerns over a 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,” he said. “Without clear guidelines, we fear the authorities will be reluctant to act in many cases.”

Tirapongse Pangsrivongse, president of the Thai Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the bill marks a victory for rights groups. However, he warned regulations must be specific about what constitutes cruelty.

“By only specifying piecemeal details of cruel acts, the law will exclude more cruel acts than it includes,” he said. “Unfortunately the creativity of unscrupulous people knows no bounds.”

Mr Tirapongse added that regulations should pay particular attention to Thai customs.

“Some people torture birds without knowing it,” he said. “Thais have a tradition of releasing wild birds to make merit, without knowing that the people they bought them from may have stolen adult birds from nests, leaving baby birds waiting to be fed.”

Mr Tirapongse said new the law is only the beginning. “We now have to educate people to prevent cruelty,” he said.

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