Measure to protect animals better advances in legislature

Every dog has its day, and it was Thursday at the legislature.

Lawmakers on the Comisión Permanente Especial de Ambiente reported out favorably a change in the criminal code that stipulates stiffer penalties for those who mistreat, molest or cause the death unnecessarily of an animal.

The measure also beefs up fines for dog fighting and those traditional cock fights that are a staple of Latin weekends.

Another prohibits breeding or making a hybrid of an animal to increase its aggressiveness. Another section prohibits making an animal work excessively.

The measure now goes to the full legislature for discussion and a possible vote.

The current law also calls for fines for many of these violations. Some sections of a 2002 update also have been annulled by a Sala IV ruling. The summary that introduces the text of the bill said that the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal does not have the legal instruments  to  act effectively and to protect animals.

The summary said that there are an average of 300 animal mistreatment or cruelty complaints a week.

The summary also said that there is a link between animal cruelty and violence within the home and other forms of violence in the community.

There also are laws on the books that provide penalties for illegal hunting and killing turtles, the summary noted.

In the current law the penalties for violations usually are a fine for about a month’s basic salary, about 380,000 colons now. The proposed law increases some of the fines to 200 days of a base salary and would impose one to six years jail time for unnecessarily killing an animal, torturing an animal or providing a public show where animals are killed. This section does not appear to include dogs or chicken fights.

The measure contains a long list of specific acts that would be subject to a fine of four to eight base salaries. These include conducting animal experiments without the approval of the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología, keeping an animal in inadequate conditions, arranging animal fights, failing to provide water for an animal, and breeding animals to make them more dangerous.

A second list provides for one to six years in prison for such acts as operating without anesthesia or conducting animal sacrifices.

There is no guarantee that the law will be passed. Cock fighting has a long tradition, and the law’s summary noted that then-president Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno vetoed a law in 1912 that forbade cock fights.

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