Ever since 2002 when the Sala IV found an animal protection law unconstitutional for technical reasons, Costa Rica has not had strong regulations against cruelty.
A measure introduced Nov. 1, 2011, has had a rocky time in the legislature.
President Luis Guillermo Solís called Tuesday for passage.
He asked the various political parties to work together to do this.
The bill, No. 18.298, is one of those that the president listed in his call for a special legislative session. There may be some political advantage in getting the various parties to work together, and lawmakers are in favor of the bill in theory.
The bill consolidates penalties and illegal actions that may exist elsewhere. For example, a 2008 law already covers forest animals, illegal hunting and trafficking in wild species. There also is a specific law against cock fights.
Under the current laws, the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal has its hands tied because it does not have the legal instruments against mistreatment of animals, said an extensive summary of the bill.
There are 17 specific actions that are made illegal, including practicing religious rituals that involve animal sacrifice and conducting animal surgery without anesthetic.
The bill’s philosophy is that animals are sentient creatures that must be protected by the state. The summary said that 300 animal cruelty or mistreatment complaints are received every week by various authorities.
Maltreatment is defined as actions that cause unnecessary pain, suffering or stress in animals as well as negligence in care or malicious or intentional killing.
The bill prohibits all sorts of animal fights and forbids breeding animals for their
ferocity. Also penalized is working an animal too hard.
Penalties would be from four to eight base salaries, about $3,200 to $6,400 at this writing. Sanctions that are now in the law are minimal.
The lengthy summary reads like a sociological text and says that a relationship exists between violence as an adult and mistreatment of animals as a child. The summary also links cruelty to animals with domestic violence and general criminality.
Solís said he welcomed comments from lawmakers as well as citizens concerned about animal welfare.
Several topics not touched by the proposed law are spaying animals and the number of street dogs and cats that inhabit metro areas.