What is Happening with the Animal Protection Law?



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by Penny Cottee

 – Update on the Ley de Proteccion de los animales domesticos para Baja California Sur.

The new law to protect domestic animals in Baja California Sur passed through Congress in La Paz with amazing speed – it took just 13 months from its initial presentation before the Chamber, to coming into force on June 20th of this year. However, there is impatience in some quarters that no-one can yet be reported or punished for the mistreatment of animals. Although in force, the law is still not enforceable.

Deputy Axxel Gonzalo Sotelo Espinosa de los Monteros, the PRI Congressman behind the new legislation, recognizes that people are anxious to invoke the law as soon as possible. “However, it’s important that people understand the standard process that the law must follow,” he says.

“In essence, we have to get the State Government to agree to the detail of the law, before it will allow access to its bodies such as police services and Government departments, to enforce the law. In order to get that agreement, the ‘reglamento’ has to be written, the detailed set of rules and definitions which support the law.”

For example, the law already sets out that those mistreating animals will be fined; the ‘reglamento’ specifies how much those fines will be, to whom they are paid, deadlines for payment, penalties for non-payment, etc.

The law makes provision for the setting up of six brand new Pro Animal Committees, one at State level, and one in each of the five municipalities. These Committees are central to the success of the new law, and it is they who will be tasked with writing the ‘reglamento’.

As well as creating the ‘reglamento’, the Committees have another important role – they can recommend that breaking the new law be made into a criminal offence. “If they do request that,” explains Deputy Sotelo, “we will have to reform the penal code accordingly.”

Does Deputy Sotelo want that to happen? “Yes, very much so,” he says. “Mexico City made animal mistreatment a criminal offence just a few months ago, and I want BCS to do the same.”

The Committees can also make recommendations on funding. “They may suggest, for example, that all fines taken for breaking the law will be go to pay for sterilization campaigns,” says the Deputy.  At the moment it is not clear whether any new funding will be available from other sources.

Members of the new Committees will be drawn from, among others, State Government, the College of Veterinarians, the Health Department, private and public higher education, City Hall, and registered animal welfare groups.

Once the law is up and running, the Committees will have an ongoing and fundamental role to play in informing the residents of the State about it, and spreading information on animal care. “They will have the job of raising the consciousness of the sudcalifornianos about caring for animals.”

Aside from the Committees, there will be four authorities jointly responsible for applying the law. These include the State Government, and the Department of Health. The Health Department is a stakeholder, as the issue impacts on human health, and because it will be involved in the sterilization and humane euthanasia of animals. The Department of Public Education will develop programs to teach children about the need to care for animals, and the City Halls, though the Municipal Police, will be responsible for enforcing the new law.

For Deputy Sotelo, the involvement of the Public Education Department is vital. “It is so important that respect and care for animals be part of our children’s education,” he says. “We need to instill these values into our children and young people, so that by the time they are adults, it’s part of their mentality and culture to respect animals, as living beings.”

The law is a personal mission for the Deputy. “I have always cared very much for animals, and I believe strongly in the need to respect other living beings. Animals should be able to rely on the respect of citizens. I would also like this law to have wider implications, to help the residents of our State understand the importance of having the utmost respect for life itself.”

The law is a reason to be proud of our State, he continues. “We in Baja California Sur are pioneers in Mexico. Only three other regions have passed such a law. This law, as any law, can be perfected and changed, but it is a great start.”

It is stipulated in the law that the State Pro Animal Committee must be in place by December 27th, 2013, and those in the municipalities by March 27th, 2014. Obviously, then, there is still some time to run before we will see the law being enforced.

Deputy Sotelo is clear, however, about pressing on towards the goals of the law. “Once we have the Committees set up, and the ‘reglamento’ in place and agreed, we can start

 

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