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law on animal cruelty



Discourse surrounding the abominable subject of animal cruelty is at an all time high when a Veterinary Clinic published a post on Facebook regarding the near-death encounter of an unfortunate pet dog aged ten years old. The previous owner had declared that it was “too much to handle” and intended to euthanize it at the clinic. Fortunately, this was to no avail as the veterinarian clinic denied their request after receiving blood test results detailing that the dog possessed a healthy track record and was not suffering from any considerable pain or illnesses. This is with the exception of a minor skin condition caused by negligence and improper handling from the owner.


Legislations governing Animal Cruelty


Pursuant to Section 24 of the Animal Welfare Act 2015, the law stipulates that the owner of animal has the duty and responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of an animal are fulfilled. This includes but is not limited to:

(i) its need for a suitable environment;

(ii) its need for a suitable diet;

(iii) the need for it to be able to exhibit its normal behaviour patterns;

(iv) the need for it to be housed with or apart from other animals; and

(v) the need for it to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.


As such, if an owner does not take care of his animals by ignoring the foregoing needs, he would be liable to a fine of not less than RM15,000.00 and not more than RM75,000.00 or sentenced for a term not more than 2 years or both.


It must be borne in mind that Section 24 does not apply to the lawful destruction of any animal for any reasonable purposes in an appropriate and humane manner.


Apart from the general duties of the owner of animals, Section 29 of the Animal Welfare Act 2015 sets out various cruelty offences such as:

a) Torturing animals;

b) Overriding animals;

c) Failure to provide animals with sufficient food and drink;

d) Causing unnecessary pain and suffering;

e) Mutilating animals;

f) Abandoning animals in circumstances which the they are likely to suffer trauma and pain; and so on.


Any person who is found guilty of committing any of the abovementioned cruelty offences will be liable to a fine of not less than RM20,000.00 and not more than RM100,000.00 or to imprisonment for a term not more than 3 years or to both.


It is interesting to note that if the following acts will not be regarded as an offence of cruelty:

a) any acts which the Animal Welfare Board has determined to be accepted veterinary management procedures;

b) any baiting of any pest animals for the purposes of public health, disease control, population control and relocation for conservation done by any lawful authority or any person approved by the Animal Welfare Board; or

c) feeding of animals as food for other animals in accordance with their natural eating habits.


Whilst the general rule is that killing of animals is prohibited, such killing is actually allowed in many situations pursuant to Section 30 of the Animal Welfare Act 2015.


a) the killing of the animal is for the purpose of human consumption;

b) the animal is incurably ill as determined and certified by the veterinary authority or a registered veterinary surgeon;

c) the killing of the animal is deemed necessary to end the suffering of such animal as determined and certified by a veterinary authority or a registered veterinary surgeon;

d) the killing is done to prevent an imminent danger to the life or limb of a human being;

e) the killing is done for the purpose of animal population control by any authorized authority under any written law;

f) the killing is approved by the animal ethics committee at the end of any research, testing and teaching procedures; or

g) the killing is for any other reasons as determined and certified by a veterinary authority or registered veterinary surgeon.


Insofar as what consitutes "incurably ill", Section 30(3) defines it as being fatally wounded or sick with a grave prognosis certified by a veterinary authority or a registered veterinary surgeon. This provides a good safeguard as it means that a veterinary authority or surgeon must not simply accept any request made by any animal’s owner that his animal be euthanised. This is because the veterinary authority or surgeon needs to determine whether the animal is incurably ill or the killing is necessary to end its suffering.


Any person found guilty under Section 30 would be liable to a fine of not less than RM20,000.00 and not more than RM100,000.00 or sentenced for a term not more than 3 years or to both. However, the one fact that remains clear is that euthanasia should never be used as a means to escape the owner’s incompetence and/ or negligence in facilitating a healthy, safe environment for their pet animals.


Another case regarding animal cruelty such as the Public Prosecutor v Shahrul Azuwan bin Adanan & Anor[1] is also worth mentioning. In 2011, the owners had left thirty of their cats at the Respondent’s business, a cattery, during Hari Raya holiday only to return and find its cats missing and in deplorable conditions. Of thirty, eight had cruelly died due to starvation while the remaining twenty two were severely malnourished, emaciated and suffering from dangerous health issues.


The High Court, in allowing the Prosecution’s appeal, ordered that the Respondent be sentenced to 3 months’ imprisonment. In pronouncing its judgment, the High Court highlighted the importance of deterrence in animal cruelty cases:


[20] It is high time the courts take a serious view of the offence of cruelty against animals before apathy sets in, if it has not already set in. Animals need care, love and affection as humans. Like humans they do feel pain and suffering but unlike humans they endure the pain and suffering quietly. It is not uncommon to see animals, particularly strays at quiet corners licking their wounds inflicted by humans. It is a shame to call ourselves human if we cannot even treat animals humanely.


[21] The principle is clear. Where the interest of the public and the interest of the offender collide, the interest of the public must take precedence over the interest of the offender. Undeniably there were mitigating factors in favour of the respondents. They pleaded guilty to the charges although not at the first available opportunity, were first offenders and were remorseful. Due discount must be given for these mitigating factors but the court must draw a line between sympathy for the respondents and the need to deter others from becoming copycats especially where as in this case there is no mitigation to the crime itself. In cases involving cruelty to animals it must be made clear to the public that such act is a crime like any other crime and will not be tolerated by the court.


Conclusion


Unsurprisingly, this has, and will not remain the only cases relevant to the subject of Animal Cruelty. Out of millions of cases, these are rare instances where the matter is reported and in the second case, trialled. Even so, there are many occurring on a daily basis that are left unreported, with animals suffering gruesome deaths sometimes for the entertainment or sport of humans. Therefore, not only should we strive to report any relevant cases to authoritative figures, we should also aim to educate offenders about the severity of their crime and subsequently, bring greater awareness to youths.


Sources:


Islamic Law:


Malaysian Code of Practice for Scientific Research:

[1] [2013] 8 MLJ 70


Authored by Tan Zu Hao and Adriel Heng


Kindly note that this legal article does not, and is not intended to, constitute formal legal advice by the Firm, instead all information, content and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. If readers require further clarification or legal advice, please email office@kevinwuassociates.com

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