China’s First Animal Rights Law

Chinese officials are currently in the final stages of drafting the country’s first animal rights law. Once completed, the proposed law will be submitted to the Chinese government and congress authorities.

In December 2008, China’s first Animal Protection Law Research Center was created at the Northwest University of Politics and Law. Since then, law professors at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences have been discussing the different aspects of this law proposal with the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Britain’s RSPCA. The majority of the proposal has been modeled after the RSPCA’s animal sterilization programs and micro chip implants. However, the main focus of this law will be on preventing animal abuse and neglect.

The only animal law currently in existence in China today is a law protecting only endangered species, The Law on Protection of Wild Animals. However, this law only prohibits the trafficking and abuse of wildlife species in China.

Therefore, in China there is no penalty for abusing or killing other types of animals that are sold for food or as pets.

The new law would encourage pet owners to register and vaccinate their dogs. If anyone is found guilty of animal abuse, they will either be warned, fined or sentenced to prison.

Because of the increasing public and governmental support for animal rights, such a law is both needed and welcomed, explained Chang Jiwen, the head of the drafting team of law professors at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“China has begun to be aware of the importance of animal welfare because it touches on the economy, trade, religion, and ethics,” he said when asked about the prospects of the proposal becoming law. “The future is bright, but the path ahead will be tortuous.”

Even the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Hong Kong has approved the drafting of such a law.

“We have yet to see the details, but any animal welfare law would be welcome,” said the deputy director of the RSPCA’s China Outreach program, Twiggy Cheung, “On the mainland, you see a lot of animal abuse and torture. We feel sorry for animals and also for the people, because there is no guideline for what is right and wrong. That is why a new law is needed.”

Mz Cheung also agreed that the spread of rabies could be prevented by legal regulations requiring dogs to be vaccinated against rabies.

“The law ought to cover animal population control and responsible pet ownership, which means people should vaccinate their animals from rabies and other contagious disease.”

Local governments in China have authorized mass killings, including burying dogs alive and clubbing them to death, to stop rabies from spreading. Rabies is one of the major causes of death in China amongst people.

The new animal rights law will stop this practice and make it illegal for anyone to participate in such horrific events.

Last month government officials in Heihe, in the Heilongjiang province, ordered a cull of every dog found in the town after a rabies outbreak.

Earlier this month, 37,000 dogs were clubbed to death to curb the spread of Rabies after 13 people died after being bitten by rabid dogs in the northern Chinese city of Hanzhong.

Xing Tianhu, the deputy mayor of Hanzhong, was quoted as saying: “The monitoring data showed that the danger caused by the dogs which carried rabies virus has increased and epidemic prevention and control is urgent.”

The irony was that over 240,000 dogs were vaccinated against rabies in Hanzhong during the previous few weeks. Nevertheless, city officials apparently ventured out in to the city and clubbed to death any unattended dogs that they found to be in the streets.

“Telling people that unattended dogs will be killed is an effective way to contain the epidemic because it encourages dog owners to keep their pets at home,” explained one city official.

However, in the district of Yangxian, every single dog living there was clubbed to death. Not surprisingly, animal rights advocates have stated that the majority of the culled dogs had been licensed, vaccinated and even leashed!

It seems that the culling may have been futile, as Peter Williams, the China director for the World Society for Protection of Animals, explains: “The mass removal of dogs can result in the increased movement of dogs of unknown disease status from surrounding areas, thereby actually facilitating disease transmission and increasing the threat to human and animal health.”

There have been other reports by animal abuse by many international animal rights groups, mostly concerning the fact that millions of animals that are bred merely for their pelts, which include dogs and cats, are mistreated and inhumanely killed.

The new animal rights law will prevent such culling from every happening again.

Photo Credit: Ben Burkland/Carolyn Cook

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