On February 26th, it was announced that an Animal Protection Act was finally approved. Animal protectors have campaigned for many years to obtain it.
HAVANA TIMES – “We made history, it’s the law, we did it,” are some of the phrases that appear on the social media profiles of activists, animal rights organizations and citizens, who are celebrating the recent approval of Cuba’s Animal Protection Act.
The official announcement was made on February 26th via different national news channels, with information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, although the law hadn’t been published in full at the end of this news report.
This legal document supports the implementation of Cuba’s Animal Wellbeing Policy, which was passed on January 19, 2021. A multi-disciplinary group has supposedly been working on it since 2001, bringing government agencies and civil society together, local press reports.
Independent activists and societies in different provinces of this Caribbean country have been calling for the country to have a specific law of this kind, for a very long time.
In recent years, actions and proposals to back this demand were driven by greater visibility and the articulation of an animal rights movement, ever since Internet access via mobile data became available in 2018.
The Facebook page of collaborators in the province of Matanzas, forming part of Cuba’s Animal Protection network, pointed out that while they trust that Cuban society is ready to respond to the demands of this Act, raising awareness and adopting a different mindset is necessary, and this depends more on consciences rather than a law.
What do we know about the content of the Act?
IPS summarized the points that might be of interest to citizens, taken from information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.
In the law that was just passed, the following has been established:
- The obligations of veterinarians to exercise veterinary care.
- The obligation of people linked to livestock and work animals to avoid animal abuse and assure their wellbeing in normal conditions or in emergency situations.
- The conditions companion animals need when they stay outside the home and their owner’s obligation to ensure their wellbeing.
- The requirements that need to be met for using animals for sport, entertainment and exhibition. Approval will be up to the competent animal health authority to determine.
The law also aims to boost surveillance, protection and security systems for animals on display in zoos, aquariums and fairgrounds. Furthermore:
- Health/veterinary requirements for the commercialization, transportation, stabling, restraint and sacrifice of animals have been updated.
- It stipulates that managing stray dog populations will be done in accordance with the Ministry of Public Heath regulations, as part of the National Program to Control and Prevent Rabies.
In regard to animal sacrifice, information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture states that it will be carried out in a compassionate and swift manner, ensuring that the animal is handled correctly and the slaughter is carried out in the most humane way possible. It stipulates:
- The points required for animal sacrifice meant for human consumption and slaughter for preventive reasons in the case a serious disease is found in the animal, which can spread quickly, and in health emergencies or contingencies that justify it.
- The causes that justify animal sacrifice to control wildlife populations.
It states that infractions of the law are violations.
It highlights that the objective of this legal document is to promote animal care, protection and wellbeing, in the nation’s education curriculum and among the general population.
Some demands and expectations
Between November 3rd and 23rd 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture called upon citizens to discuss and send in their thoughts about the decree-law, which was pending approval at that time, although its structure had already been published. According to a statement from this government body, the post got almost 7000 views and over 2000 comments and opinions.
Some of the demands raised within this context were collected on the Cuba protege page. These included the need for a special unit within the Police to tackle zooicide and extreme animal abuse. Likewise, for these to be classified as a crime within the Penal Code – which is due to be updated.
It also asked to stop animal sacrifice as a means to control stray animal populations and, in the case of being necessary for another reason, to substitute the use of strychnine with an overdose of painkillers.
Another proposal was the creation of (state-led, mixed or private) municipal shelters and adoptions centers to house animals, temporarily or permanently.
One of the most repeated demands was to ban legal and non-legal fighting between all kinds of animals (including dogs, cockerels, the Cuban grassquit, fighting fish), as well as banning the commercialization and export of fighting cocks.
The Animal Protection Act will enter in force 90 days after its publication in the Cuban Republic’s Official Gazette.
Basic timeline of actions
- 1988: The board of the National Association for Animal and Plant Protection, the only association legally registered for this purpose, under the current Law of Associations, presents its draft bill of the Act to the National Assembly.
Along with signatures from citizens to support the draft bill, it continued to be tweaked and was later presented to the Ministry of Agriculture.
- 2015: The City Animal Protection workgroup promotes the collection of signatures to put forward a draft Animal Protection Act to Cuba’s legislature. In 2017, this petition already had over 10,000 signatures, but it wasn’t passed.
- April 2019: Over 400 people marched in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood to condemn animal abuse and to ask for an Animal Protection Act, as part of a pilgrimage to the tomb of philanthropist Jeannette Ryder.