The legal consequences of animal abuse
We have seen on social media clips and videos of animal abuse. The perpetrators or onlookers upload this footage for different reasons, including wanting to shock the audience or to achieve the highest number of subscribers.
This abuse is rejected by Islam and condemned by society. Even the law has a say on this matter.
In 2013 the Kingdom approved the Animal Welfare Act for Gulf Cooperation Council countries and approved its executive regulations. This system mainly seeks to protect animals, define their rights, highlight the limits of dealing with them as well as imposing the stated punishment on each violator.
The law not only focuses on punishing those who abuse animals, it obliges the owners of these animals to provide the appropriate facilities and living conditions for them, in addition to appointing qualified people to care for them and to check on their conditions at least once a day.
The law does not overlook the obligation of owners to follow up on the animals’ condition and take them to a veterinarian in case of illness. It is also forbidden to subject any animal to medical or scientific experiments without obtaining a license.
Animal trade is a source of income for many individuals, but it is also a threat to species, especially when they are bought by individuals who do not know how to deal with them properly and adequately. Rare and endangered animals are at risk of the worst kinds of trade as well.
As for the penalties imposed on violators of the animal welfare law, a fine of not more than SR50,000 ($13,333) is levied and doubled to SR100,000 in case an offense is committed for a second time within a year of the first offense being committed.
The law also imposes a fine of up to SR200,000 in case a third offense is committed within a year of the second offense, with the temporary closure of facilities for a period not exceeding 90 days. The law defines facilities as any place that keeps, holds or raises animals, including public and private places.
If the offense is committed a fourth time within a year of the third offense, the fine increases to SR400,000 and the license is revoked permanently.
It should be noted that, according to another law concerned with animal welfare, penalties can include imprisonment for a period of not more than five years for people who violate the principles and regulations that concern the protection of animals.
Because customs play a significant role in protecting animals and reducing illegal trade, I was pleased to read about a memorandum of understanding between the General Customs Authority and the Saudi Society for Animal Welfare.
The agreement is aimed at creating effective coordination between the two bodies, improving the environment for animals in the quarries located at all customs points, and providing advice and consultation on animal accommodation centers.
We look forward to the work of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the Saudi Society for Animal Welfare, and their efforts to provide a safe environment for animals and raise awareness about their protection, which Islam has urged us to pay attention to.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers.