Amid efforts to curb the increasing number of cases of animal cruelty in Taiwan, several civic animal protection groups and legislators yesterday urged amendments to more strictly punish such behavior.
The Taiwan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Taiwan SPCA) said it receives calls and reports of animal cruelty nearly every day.
The group recounted examples of cases that occurred last month, including one incident in which a pet owner in Yilan County killed his kitten by slamming it into the ground in a fit of rage after quarrelling with his wife, and a man in Taipei who hung his cat from a rope tied to his apartment window, strangling the animal to death.
“However, the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) stipulates that offenders be fined between NT$15,000 and NT$35,000, and usually first-time offenders will only be fined NT$15,000,” Taiwan SPCA investigations officer Nancy Lai (賴思臻) said.
“One time, we received a report about someone beating a dog with a golf club, but the dog’s owner was ultimately fined just NT$15,000. That amount is not high enough to deter such incidents,” she said.
Lai added that pet owners who are cruel to animals only face criminal charges if they are caught again within five years.
“First-time offenders in Canada may be sentenced to up to five years in prison, or given a fine with no maximum limit, and are never allowed to have a pet again,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said. “First-time offenders in Germany may face a maximum of three years in jail.”
She said the punishment for animal cruelty in Taiwan is too light and suggested that the act be amended to make the penalty for a first offense up to one year imprisonment or a maximum fine of NT$500,000 to deter potential animal abusers.
Wang said that Council of Agriculture (COA) statistics show that there are about 1.54 million pet dogs and cats in the nation, which averages out to about one pet per every five households.
“However, pet owners are often treated as second-class citizens and have to deal with limited choices of housing because of their pets,” she said.
To right this unfairness, Wang said the Apartment Building Regulations (公寓大廈管理條例) should be amended to prohibit apartment building management boards from implementing pet bans.
“Increasing the penalties for animal cruelty is an issue that has been deliberated at the legislature’s Economic Committee, but the conclusion was to keep to the current regulations,” said Lin Tsung-yi (林宗毅), Animal Protection section chief at the council’s Animal Industry Department, adding that the matter may be discussed again.
Lin added that the 17 animal abuse cases that reached a verdict since 2008 all resulted in the perpetrator being fined NT$15,000.