A legal perspective on animal welfare
A few months ago, a well-known social media page was involved in a controversy for animal abuse, even though initially that page was very famous for its content on their pets. According to different pet welfare organizations, the pet owner mishandled the animals, didn’t provide them with proper nutrition, and the page provided wrong information about animal care through its videos.
In 2019, the government passed the Prani Kalyan Ain, 2019 to ensure welfare for animals against abuse, cruelty, and misappropriation which, in section 4, describes the rational responsibilities of animal owners and caretakers towards the animals. Unnecessary cruelty towards animals, dismemberment, the extermination of ownerless animals without reason, training animals for performances, trading, and commercialization of animals without concerned authority's permission; all these are punishable offenses according to this Act.
The contents of section 6 are noteworthy because the scenarios described in it are the ones that commonly occur with pet owners. Notably, in 6 (1) (Dha), it states that no animal can be used for sporting or entertainment purposes without the permission of authorities; the mentioned page was said to inherently violate this specific section by using pets in various ways to entertain its social media followers.
Covid making matters worse
Yet another crisis had arisen regarding the care of animals in the Covid-19 lockdowns. Social distancing and lockdowns have unintended consequences. In pet shops and menageries across the country, animals kept for sale are not getting proper treatment.
The long periods of complete lockdowns left these helpless animals tied or caged, and without food or treatment within closed and limited spaces. With the lockdown in place, shop owners were not able to open the shops and provide enough care to the animals.
This stands in violation of the “rational responsibility” doctrine as stated in the Prani Kalyan Act, 2019. Though lockdowns have been lifted and the government has allowed the shop owners to open shops, still, the steps taken have not been enough. Steps need to be taken and with utmost prudence, if we are to stop these unwanted abuses on innocent animals.
The Prani Kalyan Act, 2019 is a timely and efficient statute made by our government. But unfortunately, the implementation has not been as efficient. On both public and personal levels, violations of this law occur either by intent or ignorance.
To stop these violations and ensure implementation of the law, the Fisheries and Livestock Ministry has yet to play a large role. Coordination is required on governmental, non-governmental, and private levels.
For individuals who own pets, a proper check-and-balance is needed, and they must be held accountable by the authorities. There should be a registry of such individuals, and a monitoring agency to keep tabs on the animals’ status of living.
Earnest pet owners, animal activists, and other stakeholders need to work with the authorities to create awareness against animal abuse and the statute itself.
A common penchant for cruelty against these innocent animals is seen at many places, which needs to be stopped or at least reduced, and here social media can play a great role. People can be made aware of kindness towards animals through these social media platforms easily, but also, misinformation through these platforms can also cause harm to the animals' welfare, so we have to be cautious about what we share in the virtual world.
Muhtasim Fahmid and Ibnat Fairuz are students of law and freelance contributors.