by Choo Dee Wei
Published December 9, 2016
It has been months since the last article. A long hiatus. In between plenty has happened including adopting Milo (the author’s adopted canine) and have been busy as a bee. So in connection with him, we explore the Animals Act 1953 (“Animals Act”) since the Animal Welfare Act 2015 is not yet in force.
The Animals Act exists to, amongst others, the following:-
Control the movement of animals into, within and from Peninsular Malaysia;
Control the slaughter of animals; and
Prevent cruelty to animals.
From a bird’s eye view of the Animals Act, there is the Importation and Exportation of Animals and Birds (Part 2), the Prevention of the Spread of Disease (Part 3), the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Part 4), the Conservation of Lifestock (Part 5), the Improvement of Lifestock (Part 6) and Powers for Search, Seizure & Arrest (Part 7).
It is commendable that there exists such an Act to give voice to those who cannot speak. This author wishes to focus on Part 4 of the Animals Act which is the prevention of cruelty to animals. Under the Animals Act, ‘animal’ means any living creature other than a human being and includes any beast, bird, fish, reptile or insect, whether wild or tame.
What then amounts to cruelty to animals? According to the Animals Act (section 44), a person is cruel to animals if he/she:-
cruelly beats, kicks, ill-treats, overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures, infuriates or terrifies any animal; or
causes or if it is the owner, permits any animal to be so used; or
being in charge of any animal in confinement or in course of transport from one place to another neglects to supply the animal with enough food or water; or
unreasonably doing or omitting to do any act, causes any unnecessary pain or suffering, or, if it is the owner, permits any unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal; or
causes, procures or, if it is the owner, permits to be confined or carried any animal in such manner so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering; or
employs or, if it is the owner, permits to be employed any animal which in consequence of any disease etc is unfit to be so employed; or
causes the fighting or baiting of any animal, or keeps or uses in the management of any premises for the purpose of fighting or baiting any animal, or causes payment for the admission of any person to such premises or place.
If a person is convicted of cruelty to animals under Section 44, he / she is liable to fine of not more than RM50,000.00 or jail for not more than 1 year or both. It is no lark.
For owners, the Animals Act states that he / she shall be deemed to have permitted such cruelty if he / she failed to exercise reasonable care and supervision in respect of the protection of the animal from cruelty.
Somewhat of a silver lining for owners is that if the owner is convicted of permitting cruelty only because he / she failed to exercise reasonable care and supervision, the owner shall not be liable to imprisonment without the option of a fine.
What happens if cruelty to an animal is witnessed? The Animals Act says that any veterinary authority and any police officer may arrest without warrant such person seen committing a Section 44 offence and immediately taken to the police station.
Within any town or Municipal limits, the powers given to the veterinary authority / police officer may be exercised by any officer appointed in that behalf by the Mayor of a City Councilor City Hall, President of a Municipal Council, District Council or Local Authority or General Manager of a Town Council or Town Board.
A point to note for vegetarians, Section 44 would not bite if the animal was to be used as food for mankind. However, this is on condition that there was no infliction of unnecessary suffering against the said animal.
As a treat before concluding this little write-up, if the Court imposes a fine for a Section 44 offence, the Court may award any portion of that fine (not more than half) to an informer.
The Animals Act has more bite than bark. However, when the Animal Welfare Act 2015 comes into force, it brings more protection towards animals.