Malaysia: New law to bite back at animal abusers

Joseph Sipalan The Star 22 Feb 13;

PUTRAJAYA: A new law that is ready for tabling in Parliament is about to get nasty with animal abusers.

The Animal Welfare Bill proposes that first time offenders be fined between RM20,000 and RM100,000 or sit behind bars for up to three years.

Commit the crime again, and they will not only be fined up to double the amount imposed for their previous offence, but also face at least three months in jail.

The final draft of the Bill which included several amendments suggested by participants in a series of public engagements was also aimed at more extensive and intensive enforcement of the law, said Veterinary Department director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz Jamaluddin.

“Animals cannot talk, they cannot take to the streets and hold a demonstration. We need to have something punitive to act as a deterrent (against animal abuse).

“The severity of the penalties was proposed by the public, not just by us,” he said.

Now, the penalty for animal abuse is a fine of up to RM50,000, not more than a year’s jail, or both, following last year’s amendments to the Animal Act 1953.

Prior to the amendments, the penalty was a paltry RM200 fine, six months’ jail or both.

How the new regulations are to be enforced is a major aspect of the final draft, with the proposed creation of Malaysia’s own Animal Cops – a team of officers who will keep a close watch on the treatment of animals.

Unlike the department’s existing enforcement officers – who are only mobilised for specific operations – the animal welfare officers would be on the ground at all times to make sure nobody took advantage of hapless animals, Dr Abdul Aziz said.

“Just like welfare officers, they will inspect and monitor their areas to make sure the law is upheld. There will be no need to wait for cases to be reported before we send people over.

“If, for example, they come across a pet that has not been fed for days, they will have the power to investigate the case and take the owner to court ... so you had better make sure your pet is taken care of before flying off for your holiday,” he added.

Dr Abdul Aziz hoped the Bill could be debated and passed by Parliament this year for it to be gazetted and enforced in 2014.

Groups: Spell out powers of animal welfare officers
Yuen Meikeng The Star 22 Feb 13;

PETALING JAYA: Animal rights groups have welcomed the stricter enforcement on animal abuse in the final draft of the Animal Welfare Bill but want more details about the role of animal welfare officers.

PAWS shelter manager Edward Lim said the Veterinary Services Department should explain the powers of these officers.

“Can they enter someone’s house compound without a warrant? Also, how does one draw the line on what is abuse and what is not?” he asked.

Lim said animal abuse should also be clearly defined because people might have different interpretations.

“I may chain up my dog for a long time and some may view it as abuse but others may not,” he said.

He lauded the proposed fine of between RM20,000 and RM100,000 for first-time animal abusers, describing it as “wonderful news”.

“For a start, the amount is sufficient to deter offenders. However, it should be revised periodically according to current needs,” he said.

Furry Friends Farm president Myza Nordin said the proposal to introduce animal welfare officers was a good step, likening them to policemen making their rounds.

“However, the procedures for taking action should be spelled out. Will they be able to issue compounds for offenders on the spot?” she asked.

She said increasing the fine for animal abuse from a mere RM200 to a minimum of RM20,000 would help prevent animal cruelty.

Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better rescue coordinator Irene Low said the proposal to introduce animal welfare officers was long overdue.

“It is a good idea to have our own version of ‘Animal Cops’. But those selected for the job should be people who are on the ground and have experience in working with animals.

“They should not be those who only know policies by way of theory,” she said.

Animal officers with a bite
New Straits Times 22 Feb 13;

PUTRAJAYA: Animal welfare officers appointed under the proposed Animal Welfare Bill will be given the power to arrest animal abusers.

The proposed law will put some teeth into efforts to curb cruelty against animals in the country, Veterinary Services Department director-general Datuk Dr Abd Aziz Jamaluddin said yesterday.

"The animal welfare officers can make an arrest and build a case, but the prosecution will be done by the Attorney-General's Chambers."

Aziz said the proposed law would not spare pet owners who forgot to feed or care for their dogs and cats, or other animals that they kept as pets. The animal welfare officers would also work with non-governmental organisations.

The draft law also suggested a fine of between RM20,000 and RM100,000 for animal abuse, and a jail term of not more than three years. Aziz said the quantum of punishment proposed had been suggested by the public, and not the department.

The director-general said pet owners would be made to register their animals and this would be carried out in stages.

He said under the Animal Welfare Bill, premises that conducted activities related to animals, including circuses, pounds, zoos, shops, clinics, animal boarding establishments, safari parks, recreational places, breeding premises and even schools and universities that use animals for research purposes, were required to register with the department.

Their details would be kept in the department's database.

To date, about 3,000 cats, dogs and horses had been registered by their owners via the department and private veterinary clinics.

On the horse meat scandal in Europe, Aziz said Malaysia was not affected.

"In this respect, the public should not have any doubts about the integrity of meat products in Malaysia. The meat products coming in are from abattoirs that have received the department's and Jakim's accreditation," he said.