The government is proposing a new set of tough laws to ensure the wellbeing and protection of animals and prevent their mistreatment.
Under a planned revision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, the legislation that prohibits and penalizes acts of cruelty toward animals will be extended to cover taking positive actions in relation to looking after animals.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) proposes to impose a positive “duty of care” on those who are responsible for animals to look after the creatures well, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The modified law will empower public officers to issue improvement notices to persons where the duty of care is deemed to have not been fulfilled, and set appropriate level of penalty for violations.
Another proposal is to stiffen the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences and empower the courts to disqualify anyone convicted of an animal cruelty offence from keeping animals within a specified period of time or permanently.
Third, the AFCD proposes to give public officers the necessary powers of entry to premises and seizure of animals in order to boost the protection of animals from unnecessary suffering.
The existing ordinance prohibits and punishes cruelty to all animals, whether they are living in the wild or are household pets. People who commit such crime could be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of HK$200,000 and imprisonment for three years.
According to an RTHK report, it is proposed that the penalties be raised to 10 years in jail, and a maximum fine of HK$2 million.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee told media on Friday that the administration will step up public education to encourage people to look after animals properly, not relying only on penalties to improve citizens’ behavior.
A three-month public consultation exercise on revision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance begins on Friday.
The legislative procedure is expected to be completed by 2021.
In April last year, designated teams were set up in the 22 police districts with crime investigations across the territory to handle animal cruelty cases.
Data show the dedicated teams have processed 98 suspected cases as of February this year.
In her policy address in October last year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government “attaches great importance to promoting and safeguarding animal welfare.”
Preliminary proposals were being drawn up, including “exploring raising the penalties for acts of cruelty to animals and introducing animal keepers’ responsibility of positive duty of care of animals,” Lam said in her policy address.
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