Animal Cruelty - Wither The Laws That Come With No Bite [ Part 1/2 ]


Weve heard it all before.
Sickening stories of budding teenage sociopaths whose idea of a leisurely Tuesday afternoon is mutilating the neighbours live kitten without anesthesia. Heart-wrenching tales of the family German Shepherd who died of starvation and dehydration when his family abandoned him without food or water, because it would be too inconvenient to take him along with them when moving house. Or even the one about the tiny toy poodle who got bashed up violently when she couldnt stand up properly (on hind legs) as how her delusional owners wanted her to.
Be it through forwarded emails, Facebook posts or word of mouth, reports of cruelty to animals increase at an alarming rate. You hear or read of them almost every other week, if not day. Yet, no matter how often you hear of it, a little piece of your heart dies each time such incidences are brought to your attention.
If you are like me, a whole gamut of emotions would course through every sinew of your living being whenever you are confronted with such news. Anger, disgust, hate, pain, anguish, sadness and rage are but some of the more substantial states your mind goes through as you fantasize about the physical (and torturous) retribution that you would love to inflict on those people who maliciously hurt animals.
However, reality often snaps you back in place and youd realize that actually carrying out all 256 methods of murderdeathkill you had envisioned on those degenerate excuses for human beings would turn you into a bona fide criminal yourself. And thats when you realize that your only recourse for such a situation is to turn to the long arms of the law (for now at least, since vigilante-ism has yet to be legalized at press time). Well, if the laws of the land can send drug pushers, murderers and armed robbers to the gallows, surely it is strong enough to mete out the appropriate punishment for those demented individuals, isnt it?
Unfortunately, thats not the case.
While we do have laws that criminalize cruelty to animals, the sanctions contained in such laws, regrettably, do not commensurate with the heinousness of such acts and certainly fails as a deterrent against animal cruelty.
The legislation we have that deals with cruelty to animals is the very old Animals Act 1953 (Act). Specifically, Sections 44 to 50A of this Act, categorized as Prevention of Cruelty To Animals, spell out a variety of acts which are deemed as acts of cruelty towards animals. Acts which range from physical abuse to torture of animals, confining or neglecting animals without sufficient food or water, using animals as baits or even organizing animal fights may all be deemed as cruel acts under the Act. [for the complete list of the same, see Section 44(1) of the Act]
Whilst it may appear that the Act has sufficiently encompassed all manner and types of cruelty to animals, the sanctions for committing such acts falls gravely short of expectation. Under the very same Section, the sentencing powers which the Act bestows upon Courts to dish out punishment on anyone found guilty is merely a maximum of RM200 fine or imprisonment for a term of 6 months of both.
Yes, you read that right. Theoretically, someone who commits even the most heinous act of cruelty against an animal knows that the most he would get is probably a meager RM200 and 6 months jail or both if convicted. This makes the Act essentially a toothless tiger.
For many years, animal lovers and sensible individuals have pushed for reforms to amend this aspect of the Act. Many have correctly argued that the punishment to be mete out for particular crimes must move with the times. 1953 is a long time ago. In 1953, Malaya had not been formed yet and my currently graying father was only 2 years old when this Act came into being. A 200 dollar fine back then may have been a huge sum for anyone caught abusing animals. Today, RM200 may be just enough to buy you and 9 other mates a round of drinks (and maybe a bowl of chips as a side) at Sids during Happy Hour.
Also, back in 1953 animal rights awareness are not as developed as they are today. Many from that era regarded dogs as nothing more than beasts who would guard their homes while they sleep. Society was not as well-informed as we are today. Through the last 50 over years, men have made monumental leaps in terms of culture, thinking and philosophy. Womens rights, the rights of children and the under-privileged, civil liberties, religious rights, anti-discrimination and freedom of expression have all seen respectively great progress and dramatic acceptance in society. Yet sadly, animal rights seem to have lagged behind.
It is on this basis that the clarion call for urgent reform and revamp of the Act was sounded loud and clear. And those calls have seemingly resulted in an Animal Welfare Bill being tabled sometime recently for discussion. As of the time of writing, the Bill is in the stages of finalization and, I am reliably informed, should see the light of day very soon. It is rumored that under this new Act, the sanction for being convicted of animal cruelty sees an increase in the ridiculously low fine of RM200 to something that would hurt the wallet to the tune of around RM50,000.00. Maximum jail time has increased by 6 months (from the original 6 months).


Continue To Part 2 >>




Yu Jian

ONG YU JIAN is a lawyer by profession (in Messrs Raj, Ong & Yudistra), animal lover by passion. He is a 30 year old Penangite who loves football, movies, music and having a pint or two and a laugh with the lads at the pub. A staunch believer that all men and animals were created equal, he believes in the power of the scribe (or keyboard) to give voice to the segment of community that cannot speak up.

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