The draft of the Animal Welfare Bill which was at the legal draftsman’s office for edits is at present with the Ministry entrusted to be in charge of its development, the Ministry of Rural Affiars. The Cabinet approval for the draft Animal Welfare Bill was received about a year go and the Bill has finally started moving forward with it being received for due action from the ministry in charge. Almost a decade in the making, the draft bill was approved by the Cabinet following the public consultation that was last held in 2015. Following the proposed changes received by the public consultation, the Cabinet approval for the Bill was received on January 13, 2016, after which the Bill was passed to the legal draftsman for the changes to be incorporated into it and for it to be drafted with the changes included.
The last amendment to the law addressing cruelty to animals in Sri Lanka was made in 1955. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907, under which the welfare of animals is taken into consideration is over a century old, with outdated fines and implemented on rare occasions and therefore in need of urgent reform. Civil Society Organisations and actors have highlighted the need for more humane animal welfare laws in the country for many years. As a result of these calls, the draft Animal Welfare Bill was tabled in Parliament. The Bill was presented to Parliament in October, 2010 by Venerable Athuruliye Rathana Thera as a private member bill.
The new legislation proposed has as its objective the replacement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907 and to recognise duty of care for persons in charge of animals to treat animals humanely, to prevent cruelty to animals, to secure the protection and welfare of animals, to establish a National Animal Welfare Authority and Regulations and Codes of Practice and to raise awareness on animal welfare. In order to have a good animal welfare system in Sri Lanka, it is important to have duty of care for persons in charge of animals to treat animals humanely, as well as having strong laws for those who cause cruelty to animals.
Although there are many stories of cruelty to animals but without a law that is robust, it is not always helpful to take legal actions against the perpetrators who behave inhumanely and in a cruel manner towards animals. The Animal Welfare Coalition was set up with the objective of advocating and lobbying for a new animal welfare bill consists of numerous animal welfare organisations and volunteers keen on seeing the Animal Welfare Bill enacted. The member organisations and volunteers seek to actively engage in taking action to ensure that laws on animal welfare are efficient and effective and to protect animals from being subjected to cruelty.
It is important that the Animal Welfare Bill is enacted to ensure effective and efficient laws on cruelty to animals in Sri Lanka. The current law dates back to 1907 and lacks in deterrent effect which prevents the protection of animals against cruelty. It is time we changed these laws and made sure that the long- overdue Animal Welfare Bill is passed for efficient action against cruelty to animals. It is vital that the Bill will be tabled at the parliament for enactment at the soonest possible, and that the Bill will be allowed to provide for an effective and efficient legal framework to address cruelty towards animals in Sri Lanka.