Recent cases of aggression against animals in Costa Rica have prompted animal rights advocates and everyday citizens to pressure lawmakers to pass an Animal Welfare Bill currently awaiting discussion in the Legislative Assembly.
Broad Front Party lawmaker Edgardo Araya Sibaja, who chairs the legislative environmental commission, said Monday that after receiving recommendations from several groups lawmakers finally are ready to send the bill for discussion and a vote as soon as next month.
The bill was drafted during the previous administration, but President Luis Guillermo Solís in December included it as a priority for his term.
The bill calls for prison sentences of up to six years for those convicted of causing the death, suffering, injury or torture of animals. However, several sectors oppose the proposal, calling its language vague and warning it could lead to the conviction of workers charged with handling animals at their jobs or in recreational activities.
“The latest reforms were drafted primarily to avoid criminally punishing several common practices in the handling of farm animals. In this particular case the goal is to sanction acts against farm animals according to regulations of the National Animal Health Service [SENASA]; for all other animals the bill aims at punishing those acts considered as abusive according to veterinary practice,” Araya said.
As lawmakers returned from holiday vacation this week, talks began to convince top party legislators to expedite discussion of the bill, which currently sits in the top 10 on the Assembly’s agenda. Araya said that if consensus is reached among top legislators, the bill could be passed in two or three weeks.
The main opposition comes from Libertarian Movement Party legislators who are demanding changes to the bill’s original draft to protect the interests of those who work with animals.
Other legislators filed motions against provisions of the bill that would ban Costa Rican-style bullfighting, horse parades and other recreational activities that include animals. The ruling Citizen Action Party’s (PAC) Ottón Solís filed two motions; the Broad Front Party’s Ligia Fallas filed one; and a group of National Liberation Party and PAC lawmakers filed four others.
The Libertarian Movement Party’s top lawmaker, Otto Guevara, filed 50 of the total 56 motions to amend the bill and is using his Facebook profile to push his agenda. Guevara, however, insists his party does not oppose the bill.
“We Libertarians agree with the spirit of the bill to include abuse and neglect of domestic and wild animals as offenses in our Penal Code. But the original draft includes certain livestock activities, which could mean that some practices necessary for farming would be considered crimes,” he wrote.
Reports of animal cruelty have made headlines in the first few days of 2015. This month, animal rescue center Zoo Ave received an injured toucan that lost more than 50 percent of its beak when a group of teenagers hit it with a stick in the Alajuela canton of Grecia.
An Indiegogo campaign raised more than $6,000 to fund a prosthetic beak for the bird, reaching its $5,000 goal in less than 48 hours. Graphic designers from Veritas University and private companies joined the effort to model and print a new beak using 3D printing technology.
Another animal welfare group, Rescate Animal, this week reported two dogs in communities in the province of Cartago that suffered severe injuries to their necks after being tied up.
The first is “Neck“, a dog whose owner tied him up with a wire and threw him over a bridge in Cervantes, a community east of Cartago.
The dog was rescued and taken to a veterinarian by someone who saw the dog hanging from the bridge. It is being treated by Rescate Animal staff who performed emergency surgery due to severe neck lacerations. They also are treating the dog for psychological trauma.
The group also reported the case of “Caracol,” which also suffered a neck injury afte being tied up permanently with a nylon cord.
On Tuesday, the “Cartago Pro-Animal Welfare” group reported the death of a dog from machete wounds. According to a Facebook post, the dog received several injures after defending his owner from a man who entered the woman’s home and attempted to attack her.
The dog was taken to a nearby vet, but died hours later.
This week, SENASA reported that in 2014 they responded to 1,200 animal abuse complaints in the Greater Metropolitan Area alone.
Among those cases, 390 dogs were victims of abuse or neglect, and some were used for fighting.
“We are very pleased with the work done in coordination with the Humane Society and the American Stafford Costa Rica Association, as it has allowed us to rescue them from abusive situations and give them a second chance to live,” SENASA Director Allan Sánchez said.