Duty Of Care A Much Needed Inclusion In Animal Welfare Bill

By Thimal Gajadeera

The proposed Animal Welfare Bill has been welcome news for Animal Rights activists who have been clamouring for the introduction of stricter legislation to replace the anachronistic Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance of 1907. The Bill intends to strengthen the laws on animal cruelty as well as try and clearly define the offences and to bring forth stronger penalties to those who commit the aforementioned offences.

In the draft Animal Welfare Bill it states that “no person may abandon an animal” and stringent penalties are given out in order to prosecute those who do.However it brings for the issue of duty of care and the extent to which it is applied in the protection of animals.

“The Animal Welfare Bill is much needed for Sri Lanka. And the inclusion of duty of care towards animals is also key to ensuring that the objective of the Bill is met. It is difficult to prevent cruelty to animals, where there is no duty of care towards even those that one has taken charge of voluntarily,” said Convener of Animal Welfare Coalition, Attorney-at-Law, Vositha Wijenayake.

Duty of Care Around the World

The idea that pet owners having a duty of care to protect their pets is present in legislations around the world.This is brought forward due to the fact that there has many cases of abuse which especially by pet owners who have bought pets and have subsequently failed to provide any basic care for them.

In England The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 brought forward the concept of a 'duty of care' on pet owners to provide for their animals' basic needs, such as adequate food and water, veterinary treatment and an appropriate environment in which to live. Previously this ‘duty of care' had only existed for farm animals.

In Switzerland Pet owners owning pets such as dogs need to pass written and practical testing in order to own a dog and thus creating a legal duty of care and a responsibility of the individual in order to own a dog.

In the government of Queensland,Australia states under section 17 that a person in charge of an animal owes a duty of care to it and goes on to further elaborate that a person is in breach of that duty when he or she does not take reasonable steps to provide the animal’s needs for the following in a way that is appropriate—food and water; accommodation or living conditions for the animal;to display normal patterns of behaviour; the treatment of disease or injury; or ensure any handling of the animal by the person, or caused by the person, is appropriate.

Efficient Legal Reform

Sri Lanka in its attempt to pass a more comprehensive Animal Welfare Act will be well served to observe the aforementioned legislations in order to bring about a duty of care to animals as well as penalties to those who do not perform the duty of care.

“While legal reform is much needed, it is also necessary that we ensure that we do not leave gaps that would hinder the effective and efficient implementation of the law. It is with this reason that I would stress the need to have duty of care as an integral element in the new Animal Welfare Bill,” said Vositha Wijenayake.

In conclusion a society is functional when it performs the duty of care it is legally obliged to each other.This may take the form of driving with care on the road,to the duty of care that parents owe their children.This privilege must be extended to animals as well as they are reliant on those who take them under their care as pets.It is important to note that it is a form of cruelty and animal abuse if an individual does not take up the responsibility to take care of his or her pets after he or she has assumed the responsibility to do so.