Govt yet to promulgate Animal Welfare Act despite the Supreme Court order
KATHMANDU, April 12:
A video that shows two men beating a dog tied to an electric pole is lately doing the rounds on social media. The video, reportedly shot around 28 Kilo of Dhulikhel in Kavre district, shows a white dog being mercilessly beaten to death. The two men are seen using iron rods and a spade to beat the dog.
Ruyaina Basnet, an Instagram user, posted the video with a caption that reads, “Stop killing animals, they also have feelings and emotions, and respect that. Cruelty to an animal is also an animal abuse. Like humans, there should be no excuse for animal abuse. If you don’t like seeing pictures of violence towards animals being posted, you need to help stop the violence, not the pictures. Please stop turning a black eye to an animal cruelty. And, also shame on you who clicked this video. Raise your voice now.”
A flurry of comments followed in her post, all of them demanding an immediate and severe action against the perpetrators behind the incident. They said that this was the height of cruelty one could possibly show toward a living creature.
Talking to Republica over the phone on Monday, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Hari Khatiwada, who is also an information officer at the District Police Office, Kavre, said that they have received a complaint demanding stringent action against those involved in the brutal killing of the pet.
Although the complaint was filed only two days ago, preliminary investigation has shown that the incident took place at least a week ago, according to Shreejana Thakuri, the founder of the Shree’s Animal Rescue.
DSP Khatiwada added that an investigation into the case is currently underway. “We came to learn that the dog was killed by the neighbors after a child was bitten by it. However, we have not been able to draw any conclusions yet,” he said. The perpetrators of the incident are yet to be brought under police net as of Monday afternoon.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson for the Nepal Police, however, said that he is yet to get detailed information about the incident.
Thakuri--the founder of the Shree’s Animal Rescue-- said she has been receiving threatening messages on her mobile phone for raising voice against the perpetrators. “I have deactivated my social media accounts to avoid cyberbullying,” she said.
A similar incident went viral on social media in December, 2019. A group of animal rights activists campaigned against a local in Tinkune, Kathmandu, claiming that he had beaten a dog named ‘Setu’ with an iron rod to death on December 7 that year.
According to Radha Gurung, who works as a communication officer for Animal Nepal, police then refused to register their complaint against the accused despite their repeated requests.
Yet another video of a man throwing a white dog off the cliff was uploaded on TikTok in July last year. The dog died soon after it fell on the ground. As soon as the video went viral on social media platforms, animal rights activists lodged a complaint at the District Police Office, Kaski on July 13. In the course of investigation, it was revealed that Subash Nepali, 19, of Pokhara had thrown the dog off the cliff.
In a statement presented before the police in the course of investigation, Nepali said that he decided to throw the dog off the cliff as the dog belonging to his aunt was ailing and she could not afford the treatment.
In a separate incident that took place in August, 2019, a few street dogs were poisoned and others bludgeoned to death as part of a Street Dog Control Program in Diktel Bazaar, the district headquarters of Khotang in the eastern part of the country. A video clip that showed a municipal official killing stray dogs in brutal fashion went viral on social media later.
The video triggered a series of protests in Kathmandu. Hundreds of people gathered at Maitighar Mandala in the capital in September to protest against violence and cruelty inflicted on animals. The protesters demanded an end to violence against animals and punishment for those inflicting such cruelty.
The animal rights activists gathered at Maitighar Mandala also expressed concern over the killings of 24 stray cows. Another 150 stray cows were also abandoned in a forest in Katkuwa, Surkhet district on August 21.
Despite mounting pressure exerted by animal rights activists, Nepal has yet to introduce a separate legal framework to ensure animal rights and welfare. However, the National Criminal Code 2017 has tried to make some reference about the conditions that are deemed as offensive treatment against animals.
As per the Section 291 (5) of the National Criminal Code-2017, anyone who commits, or causes to be committed, the offence referred to the same section shall be liable to a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or a fine not exceeding Rs 5,000 or both the sentences.
The clause 1 of the Section 291 states that no person shall kill any animal or bird in any public place other than a religious place where there is a tradition to offer sacrifice of an animal or bird.
Sneha Shrestha, the President of the Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal (FAWN), argues that killing an animal is an extreme form of cruelty. She believes that such acts will continue to take place until Nepal formulates a separate Animal Welfare Act to penalize such acts.
In a video interview with Republica a few months ago, Shrestha shared that lack of awareness among people is mainly to be blamed for the repetition of such acts. “At the same time, the government is also seen indifferent toward introducing the much-needed animal rights Act,” she added.
Nepal Police Spokesperson SSP Kunwar said he is not aware about any instances in which action was taken against those brutally killing animals. “To the best of my knowledge, there are no such cases in which perpetrators have been punished for violating animal rights,” he said.
Govt Dilly-dallying to Introduce Animal Welfare Act
Although the Supreme Court had ordered the government to promulgate Animal Welfare Act in order to prevent cruel and harsh treatment against animals and birds in December, 2019, the Act is yet to be enacted.
Responding to the a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocates duo Padam Shrestha and Sadkon Shrestha, a joint bench of justices Tej Bahadur KC and Meera Khadka issued a writ of mandamus to the authorities — the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Health and Population — to promulgate an integrated Animal Welfare Act to secure the rights of animals. They maintained that there was an emerging practice to promulgate animal welfare laws in various democratic countries such as the UK, the USA and the neighboring India.
Officials at the Department of Livestock Services said that they have already prepared a draft of the Act after holding consultation with all the stakeholders concerned. “The draft of the Act was forwarded to the Ministry of Law and Justice for further review and suggestions in August last year,” said Dr Loknath Poudel, Chief Livestock Development officer at the Department. The Law Ministry, however, has not sent it back to the ministry to expedite the process of formulating the Act.
The proposed Act includes a number of provisions that are practiced by most European countries, according to Dr Poudel. “It’s not true that the government is indifferent toward enacting the Act as ordered by the apex court. The prolonged political deadlock in the country has hampered its timely promulgation,” he said.
While some people argue that killing dogs sometimes can be inevitable due to the fact that the street dogs might transmit infectious diseases, the animal right activists oppose this line of argument saying that there are many other alternatives to killing even in such circumstances.
“First of all, we should advocate for their right to live. In case they need to be killed, we should find some other alternative ways to get rid of them,” said Shreejana Thakuri, who has been rescuing and providing shelters to hundreds of deserted, sick and wounded dogs for the past several years.
Bikash Shrestha, Treasurer of the Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal (FAWN), alleged that the government is not willing to introduce Animal Welfare Act although they have been lobbying for it for more than two decades now. “These kinds of incidents are less likely to stop until the government introduces stringent laws against the perpetrators. It is equally important to raise awareness among people that animals also have rights as we do,” said Shrestha, who also chairs the Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals, Nepal.