Although India updated its Cruelty to Animal Act after independence in 1947, it remained unchanged in Pakistan and in independent Bangladesh to date
The Bangladesh Parliament yesterday passed the Animal Welfare Bill 2019, with significantly stricter penalties for cruelty to animals compared to the previous colonial-era Cruelty to Animal Act of 1920.
State Minister for Fisheries and Livestock M Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru placed the bill, intended to stop cruelty towards animals, ensure responsibility for their welfare, and define the duties of their owners.
The bill was unanimously passed by voice votes, with Deputy Speaker Fazley Rabbi Miah in the chair.
Although India updated its Cruelty to Animal Act after independence in 1947, it remained unchanged in Pakistan and in independent Bangladesh to date.
A major breakthrough
Stray animals not owned by any individual must be treated with compassion according to the new law, which also prohibits the unnecessary killing of an animal by euthanasia, or keeping an animal captive for 24 hours.
Anyone found violating provisions of the new law will be jailed for six months or fined Tk10,000, or both. Previously, the punishment was three months or a Tk1000 fine.
However, slaughtering of animals in accordance with religious customs and laws will not be considered animal cruelty under the new law.
Severing any organ of an animal or killing any animal by poisoning it will be considered an offence and the punishment for this will be a maximum of two years imprisonment, or a Tk50,000 fine, or both.
The Animal Welfare Bill 2019 was placed in Parliament on March 10 this year, after it received cabinet clearance in February 2017. The proposed legislation was later sent to the relevant parliamentary standing committee for scrutiny and the committee was asked to submit its report within 45 days.
After scrutiny, the standing committee placed the report with its recommendation for passage of the bill in an amended form.
Rubaiya Ahmad, founder and chairman of Obhoyaronno Bangladesh Animal Welfare Foundation, said animal welfare has come a long way in the country and "this bill marks the most important development in this field to date."
“Passage of the bill is a very important step, but implementation is another battle. We are already seeing some interest from government to implement the law and we are expecting to see more progress in the days ahead,” she said.
The Obhoyaronno founder said the initial draft cleared by the cabinet went through 56 edits when it came to the parliamentary standing committee for scrutiny where two major provisions were included.
“We are always very much concerned about stray animals like dogs and cats as they are most vulnerable. The cabinet cleared draft banned any inhuman behavior towards stray animals, but allowed their dislocation, which is a cruel act too. After scrutiny and reservations from animal welfare activists, the final bill now says killing, removal, dislocation, tying up, or poisoning an animal is a crime, which is a great development,” she said.
Another major development pointed out by Rubaiya is that now all issues relating to livestock, including slaughtering have to be maintained under guidelines of the World Health Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Despite that, the bill passed by parliament still allows sole determination of violations by veterinarians. We expect the government will include a multi-stakeholder approach to the section in the days ahead.
“We will fight on to include formation of an animal welfare board in the law,” she added.
Founder and Chairman of People for Animal Welfare (PAW), Rakibul Haq Emil, also lauded the initiative for amending the outdated law.