Animal Welfare Bill


Need for Immediate Enactment of the Animal Welfare Bill

By Avanthi Jayasuriya

Last year witnessed an escalation in the incidents of animal cruelty in Sri Lanka, ranging from the culling of strays and the culling of elephants. While the cruelty prevails, there remains a marked lacuna in terms of the laws and regulations that govern issues related to animal welfare in the country, causing the perpetrators to go unpunished and victims to be left without justice. Moving forward in 2018, it is imperative and timely to reflect on the current status of the long overdue Animal Welfare Bill.

   (C) Creative Commons

Existing legislation relating to animal welfare

In Sri Lanka, the legislature on animal welfare is determined by the framework provided under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907. The Ordinance was last amended in 1955 and has since seen no changes. Among the many shortcomings of the outdated legislation, the definition of the term “animal” can be highlighted as limited and narrow. The 1907 Ordinance applies only to a domestic or a captured animal which includes any bird, fish, or reptile in captivity. Regardless of the increase in urban wildlife at present, the term has not extended its reach to incorporate urban wildlife within its parameters or punishment to offenders. It further excludes animals which are not domesticated or caged. This narrow perspective allows for very limited species of animals to be protected.

The concept of duty of care is another major deficiency in the Ordinance of 1907.  The concept refers  to responsible ownership of pets by their owners; the lack of which has drastic implications on the welfare of animals. Therefore, the inclusion of the concept is important in ensuring that pet owners will not abandon animals, and will act responsibly towards them by providing uninterrupted basic care. Moreover, the violation of such conduct would lead to legal prosecution and would lessen incidents of abuse at the hands of pet owners.

Status of draft Animal Welfare Bill

The need for a new legal framework to govern the issues related to animal welfare in the country was noted by many civil society organizations and as a result the new animal welfare bill was drafted in 2006 by the Law Commission, with the support of the interested parties. Almost a decade in the making, the draft bill was open for public comments under the Ministry of Rural Economic Affairs 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. Yet, it has been over a year since the passing of the Animal Welfare Bill and the time for enactment has never been more urgent.

Recent measures taken to address animal welfare

The National Budget for 2018 had some considerations for animals and their welfare including the allocation of Rs. 75 Billion for the conversion of the zoo to an open zoo concept where the animals will no longer be caged, but be able to move around with more freedom as per international best practices. The Budget proposals also contained the restructuring of the Pinnawela elephant orphanage to be ‘Born Free-Chain Free’, initiating mahout training programmes. While these initiatives are commendable, ensuring animal welfare in the long run will fall short without a holistic legislative framework such as the Animal Welfare Bill in place which mandates the rules and regulations determining the welfare of animals.

Why the enactment of the animal welfare bill needs to be accelerated

In the past year, stories of extermination of stray cats and dogs within public and private premises and the culling of tuskers, cruelty towards captive elephants have become commonplace occurrences. These horrific acts of cruelty leave no doubt that it is time for more urgent and concrete action on animal welfare in the country.

It is high time that we changed these outdated laws and made sure that the long- overdue Animal Welfare Bill is passed for efficient action against cruelty to animals, where appropriate punitive action can be taken against offenders and issues relating to urban wildlife and captive animals can be solved in a comprehensive manner. In conclusion, it is pivotal that the Bill should be passed for enactment at the earliest possible, in order to provide for an effective and efficient legal framework to address cruelty towards animals in Sri Lanka.


Animal Welfare Bill in Need of Immediate Enactment

By Avanthi Jayasuriya

On November 22, the Cabinet approved a Bill focusing on elephants kept domestically, which also included banning young elephants being used for work. The regulations proposed by Sustainable Development and Wildlife Minister, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera are also reported as including a set of guidelines that should be adhered to by those seeking to rear domestic elephants. Some of the main areas of focus underlined include the responsibilities of the caretakers and owners towards the elephants kept domestically, regulations on elephants being used for work and the use of elephants in processions. This proposal also falls under amendments to Flora and Fauna Act No.22 of 2009.

While due appreciation is given to the positive change towards the treatment of elephants by seeking to prevent them from being subjected to cruelty, it also needs to be noted that it has been almost a year since the Cabinet approval for the draft Animal Welfare Bill was received. Unfortunately the Bill still remains at the Legal Draftsman’s office, while many animal welfare activists eagerly await its enactment. 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. From this point, 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.

Attorney-at-Law, Vositha Wijenayake, Convener of Animal Welfare Coalition of Sri Lanka said, “The AWC is appreciative of the changes proposed to safeguard elephants from being subjected to cruelty which were approved by the Cabinet. It is equally important to know when the proposed law on animal welfare will be enacted. This Bill has been on its way to get to this point for a very long time. I think everyone is eager to know when this could turn into law which will help uphold animal welfare in Sri Lanka.”

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,” said Ms. Wijenayake. “We hear 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,” she added.

The Animal Welfare Coalition of Sri Lanka which 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,” said Vositha Wijenayake.


Sri Lanka To Protect Domesticated Elephants: When Do We Enact The Animal Welfare Bill?

By Avanthi Jayasuriya

On November 22nd the Cabinet approved a bill focusing on elephants kept domestically. The regulations that were proposed by Sustainable Development and Wildlife Minister, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera included also a set of guidelines that should be adhered to by those seeking to rear domestic elephants. Some of the main areas of focus underlined include,  formalizing the way to maintain the places elephants are kept, maintaining their health, responsibilities of their owners and caretakers, caring of baby elephants born to such female elephants, deploying elephants in work, reproduction, using for perahera and video shootings, and attires for elephants. This proposal also falls under amendments to the Flora and Fauna Act No.22 of 2009.

Speaking on the recently approved Bill Ms. Deepani Jayantha, Veterinarian, Country Coordinator of Elemotion said, “Some of Sri Lanka’s recent developments and steps taken on securing elephant conservation and welfare is commendable. But with legislation, there is also the need for enforcement. I hope the implementation of the proposed Bill for the protection of elephants will come into effect soon.”

While due appreciation is given to the positive change towards the treatment of elephants by seeking to prevent them from being subjected to cruelty, it also needs to be noted that it has been almost a year since the Cabinet approval for the draft Animal Welfare Bill was received. Unfortunately the Bill still remains at the Legal Draftsman’s office while many animal welfare activists eagerly await its enactment. 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. There onwards the Bill was passed to the legal draftsman for the changes to be incorporated into the Bill, and for it to be drafted with the changes included.

The last amendment to the law addressing cruelty to animals that Sri Lanka has seen, was in 1955. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907 under which welfare of animals is taken into consideration is over a century old, with outdated fines, and the implementation being on a rare occasion and therefore, is in need of urgent reforms.

Attorney-at-Law, Vositha Wijenayake, Convener of Animal Welfare Coalition of Sri Lanka said, “The AWC is appreciative of the changes proposed to safeguards elephants from being subjected to cruelty which were approved by the Cabinet. It is equally important to know when the proposed law on animal welfare will be enacted. This Bill has been on its way to get to this point for a very long time. I think everyone is eager to know when this could turn into law which will help uphold animal welfare in Sri Lanka.”

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 the parliament in October, 2010 by Venerable Athuruliye Rathana Thero as a private member bill. The new legislation proposed has as its objective to replace the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907, and to recognise duty of care for persons in charge of animals to treat the animals humanely, to prevent cruelty to animals and 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 against animals,” said Ms. Wijenayake. “We hear 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 amnner towards animals,” she added.

The Animal Welfare Coalition of Sri Lanka which 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 actions 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 protection of animals against cruelty. It is time we change these laws, and make sure that the long over due Animal Welfare Bill is passed for efficient actions against cruelty to animals,” said Vositha Wijenayake.


Call For Animal Welfare: Where’s The Animal Welfare Bill?

By Vositha Wijenayake

It has been years since Sri Lanka has been speaking of the Animal Welfare Bill which is due to be enacted to address the short-comings of the current laws on animal welfare. However the law is still not finalized, and is heard as having a push back due to certain interests of different actors.

The ongoing attempt to restructure the laws on animal cruelty in the country- the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907- has reached over a decade, though the Bill is yet to be enacted. Many actors including key animal rights and welfare activists have been instrumental in this process, and are questioning the cause of delay in the already Cabinet approved Bill from moving forward to get enacted.

(C) Creative Commons

Need for the Animal Welfare Bill

The law on animal welfare in Sri Lanka at the moment is over 100 years old. Enacted in 1907, there are sections of the Ordinance which are in need of urgent reform; as the fines and sanctions imposed on those violating the laws are outdated, and are very low for most to be deterred in violating them. Some examples include a LKR 100 fine for acts of cruelty to animals, which is extremely ineffective in upholding the intention of the Ordinance (which is to prevent cruelty to animals).

The last amendment to the law was in 1955, and since then there has been no significant reform made to it. In addition to the fines that are low, and not effective, there is also the need to bring all animals that could be victims to cruelty within the purview of the law available in Sri Lanka. The law does not apply to urban wild life, and is limited only to captured or domestic animals. In turn the law applies only to those animals that are in captivity, while excluding those that are not domesticated or caged, creating a very narrow application of the law.

Duty of Care

Many Sri Lankans have animals, or feed animals that are not domesticated such as urban wild life. However they do not take the responsibility towards the care of these animals. While they have a cat or dog that they would consider to be their pet, the kittens and puppies at most times are dropped off at public spaces. This points to the fact that the concept of duty of care is not prevalent amongst us, and it is not included in the 1907 Ordinance. Hence, responsible ownership is missing in the current laws on animal welfare in Sri Lanka.

The proposed Bill addresses this issue through the suggestion to have the concept of duty of care included in it, and the laws on cruelty towards animals including the mistreatment of animals that are urban wildlife, as well as not taking care of those animals that have been taken under one’s charge.

Enacting the Animal Welfare Bill

The proposed Animal Welfare Bill was first presented to the parliament in 2010 by Venerable Athuruliye Rathana thero. The Bill proposes a broader definition of “animals” and also recognizes duty of care for persons in change of animals. It further provides for humane treatment of animals and proposes the establishment of an independent National Animal Welfare Authority.

The Bill was expected to be finalized by the end of this year (at least the expectation of those keen on its enactment was that it would be enacted by end of 2016 with the support of the Cabinet and the Parliament). However at the moment, the Bill seems to be stuck in the pipeline and with not much progress.

It is important to understand the cause of this delay of a Cabinet approved Bill, and to be informed on when one could expect the Bill to be enacted at the soonest. With the current government promoting the values of a cruelty free nation, it is important that we look into preventing all forms of cruelty, and address them. Two questions remain: What/who is (if anyone/anything is) blocking the Animal Welfare Bill’s enactment? If there is no hindrance, why is the Bill not being enacted?