Thailand passes new animal rights legislation
On Wednesday, November 12 2015 Thailand’s first legislation to impose punishment on people who neglect, torture or fail to adequately take care of animals was passed by the National Legislative Assembly.
The new laws came into effect on 27 December 2014 and define cruelty as any action which causes an animal to suffer physical or mental torture, pain, illness, disablement or death, including using a disabled, ill, aged, or pregnant animal for labour or show work, and prohibits such actions. Animals covered are domestic pets, and animals kept for food, work or entertainment purposes.
The goals of the new laws are to make animal owners more conscientious of their responsibilities to provide proper care for their animals. The legislation seeks to impose harsh punishments on animal rights violators, with a 2 year jail term, and fine of up to Bt40,000, or both.
Thailand has a poor reputation in the area of animal welfare with animals often exploited for financial gain, particularly in shows catering to tourists. Up until now, Thailand had no legislation that deals directly with the issue, except for a provision in the criminal code that states that it is illegal to commit an act of cruelty towards an animal, with a maximum one month in prison and/or Bt1,000 fine for offenders. However, there is little or no evidence that this clause was enforced, and it doesn’t clarify what constitutes cruelty.
The new laws are a hard won victory for the Thai Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TSPCA) who worked hard to lobby lawmakers over the past 20 years to introduce these much needed laws in Thailand. For animal rights advocates, this legislation is a first step in the right direction, but this remains a work in progress. This act makes specific exemptions for traditional and religious ritual killings of animals, as well as Thailand local customs like animal fights. Also exempted are killing animals for food, or humanely euthanizing animals with contagious or terminal diseases on advice from veterinarians or health officials. Killing an animal in self-defense is clearly exempted from penalty.