Animal abusers, especially those who make it their business to be cruel to animals in order to turn a profit, could soon find themselves slapped with higher fines and longer jail terms, after Congress approved a stronger animal welfare bill on its last session day.
The bill, which amends the 15-year-old Animal Welfare Act and prescribes harsher punishments for those who neglect, abuse and maltreat animals, is set to be submitted to President Aquino for his signature.
The House of Representatives adopted the Senate’s version of the bill shortly before adjourning for the last time, thereby doing away with the need for a bicameral conference committee. This means the measure could be sent directly to the President.
Under the bill, the maximum penalty would be a P250,000 fine, with a corresponding three-year jail term, and the minimum a P30,000 fine and six months imprisonment.
The most severe penalties are reserved for public officers or those whose businesses involve cruelty to animals.
Under the present law, the strongest punishment animal abusers could face are a P5,000 fine and two years in jail, while the lowest a P1,000 fine and six months in jail.
Animal rights advocates earlier deplored the puny punishment, which they said struck fear in the hearts of abusers, such as syndicates who run dog fighting operations.
The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which had lobbied for the bill to strengthen the Animal Welfare Act, hailed Congress on its passage.
In a message posted on its Facebook page, PAWS said it was pleased with the new penalties to be imposed on those who engage in businesses that thrive on animal cruelty.
“We are particularly happy that those convicted of dog meat trading and dog fighting (or ‘any offender who makes a business out of cruelty to an animal’) will now either be fined P250,000 or imprisoned between two years and one day to three years,” it said.
Under the bill, there would be harsher penalties for the following animal abusers: Members of syndicates; offenders who make a business out of cruelty to animals; public officers and employees or those who commit an act where at least three animals are involved.
They would be meted out the penalty of imprisonment of two years and one day to three years and/or a maximum fine of P250,000 for subjecting an animal to cruelty, maltreatment or neglect, regardless of the resulting condition of the animal.
For other people who subject an animal to cruelty, maltreatment or neglect, their penalty would depend on the animal’s condition.
They would be fined a maximum of P100,000 and/or jailed from one year and six months and one day, to two years if the abused animal dies.
If the animal survives the cruelty or neglect, but is severely injured or loses its natural faculty to survive on its own and would need human intervention to live, the new penalty would be a maximum fine of P50,000 and/or imprisonment of one year and one day, to one year and six months.
Any animal cruelty, maltreatment or neglect that does not lead to its death or incapacity to survive on its own would be penalized with a maximum fine of P30,000 and/or imprisonment of six months to one year.
The bill also explicitly states that it would be unlawful for any person who has custody of an animal to abandon the animal. This would be considered maltreatment under the law, it says.
The bill defines animal welfare as “the physical and psychological well-being of animals. It includes, but is not limited to, the avoidance of abuse, maltreatment, cruelty and exploitation of animals by humans by maintaining appropriate standards of accommodation, feeding and general care, the prevention and treatment of disease and the assurance of freedom from fear, distress, harassment and unnecessary discomfort and pain, and allowing animals to express normal behavior.”