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The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is deliberating an animal welfare bill that seeks to criminalise those who harm their pets.
It is the country’s first piece of legislation to impose punishment on people who neglect, torture or fail to adequately take care of animals.
The bill, which cleared its first reading with a vote of 200 and three abstentions, has now entered the scrutiny stage.
NLA member Monthian Boonthan said the legislation would reduce the number of stray dogs and cats and make people more responsible pet owners.
Legislators debating the bill called for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to take a more active role in reducing cruelty to animals, claiming that city residents are facing rising problems with stray animals.
The draft animal welfare bill covers domesticated pets, as well as animals kept for food, entertainment or any other purpose. It does not include cruelty to wild animals, which is covered by a separate law.
The bill defines “cruelty” as any action or absence of action which causes an animal agony, disability or death. Owners must also provide proper care for their animals.
Those who fail to do so will be subject to a jail term of up to one year and/or a fine of no more than 20,000 baht.
Under the bill, officials are permitted to search homes or businesses when they receive a complaint about animal cruelty.
The draft bill also states that a high-level committee to prevent animal cruelty and promote animal welfare should be established. The panel is to be chaired by the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture with members representing relevant agencies.
The bill makes several exemptions for what is defined as “animal cruelty”. Acts not considered cruel include the slaughtering of farm animals for meat and the culling of animals to contain disease or for religious rites. The bill says animals that are very sick or pose a danger to humans can also be put down.