Clashes broke out between demonstrators and the police in front of the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday as more than 100 animal welfare activists protested against the council’s refusal to include stray animals in the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法).
Huang Tai-shan (黃泰山), founder of the Taiwan People’s Association for Cats and Dogs, which organized the protest, said that despite the Act being enacted in 1998, more than 1 million stray animals have died in animal shelters.
“This proves the government’s policy is going the wrong way,” he said.
Huang said that while lawmakers had proposed including stray animals in the amendment of the Act during discussions at the Legislative Yuan last week, COA Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) and Husbandry Division Director Hsu Kuai-sheng (許桂森) opposed the proposal.
Saying that only 279 fines for abandoning pets had been given out across the nation between 2001 and 2010, Huang said it showed the government did not effectively punish irresponsible owners for abandoning their animals.
Holding placards and banners, the protesters shouted: “Dogs and cats are not trash” and “Legislate TNR [trap-neuter–release].”
The demonstration descended into violent clashes shortly afterwards as the crowd shouted for officials to come out and speak with them, and held hands and pushed against the temporary fences set up by the police in front of the council’s main gate.
The council prefers to round up and kill stray animals, which is more expensive and less humanitarian than TNR, the activists said.
Jesse Wang (王丰), who has spent more than 40 years taking care of stray dogs and has recently saved more than 20 dogs that were about to be put to death in animal shelters, said the government could have done a lot more with the abundant budget and resources it has.
According to Wang, people can now call the “cleanup squad” to pick up the pets that they want to abandon for a fee of just NT$500 and the dog or cat ends up waiting to die in the shelter if it is not adopted within 12 days.
He said that the Act gives the government disposal rights over stray animals.
However, he said that alternatives such as educating the public about respecting animals’ lives, punishing animal abandonment and illegal breeding farms more strictly, and using the trap-neuter-release method should be used instead to solve the problems.
The council then responded through a press release later in the evening, saying that it would consider the demonstrators’ suggestions in future discussions on the issue.