Stronger penalties for animal cruelty go into effect

the heat
Why would off-duty members of the National Police’s ecological unit have joined a protest in Parque Urraca to press for the new penalties that just went into effect? Some of these men and women also have beloved animals in their lives, but mainly it’s because part of their job is protecting the national parks, in which a common crime is the abandonment of unwanted pets — monkeys, birds, snakes, dogs and cats. The animal so abandoned rarely knows how to hunt for a living and more likely starves or ends up as prey. Those that do successfully make the transition become exotic invasive pest species that disrupt ecological balances in the parks. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

Animal cruelty can now lead to jail time

by Eric Jackson

As of May 2, Law 70 of 2017 went into effect. This was an amendment to the 2012 animal cruelty law, which provided fines of up to $1,000 for mistreatment of animals. Back in 2012 that law was controversial in various ways, and was in its first version vetoed in its entirety by then President Ricardo Martinelli. (Including the part that made bestiality a crime.) The ex-president wanted Spanish-style bullfighting in which the bull gets killed, which is not part of the Panamanian culture. (Our sort of bullfighting is a drunken Interiorano tradition in which the bull is far more likely to win — the poor beast is put in a small corral with wooden rails, on which people sit and occasionally jump into the ring to slap or otherwise harass the bull. The pain of getting trampled or gored generally sets in gradually as the effect of the seco wears off.)

In any case, a slightly tweaked law was passed in 2012 notwithstanding the president’s initial objections. It did not legalize Spanish bullfighting but to the chagrin of some it also did not ban the cruel blood sport of cockfighting. However, not long after the original animal cruelty law went into effect dog lovers led a protest joined by cat fanciers, television personalities and members of the National Police to demand the possibility of jail time for serious offenses and a clearer statement of jurisdiction so that the corregidores (now justices of the peace) and judges would not hold that it’s not within their powers to do anything about maltreatment of animals.

The amendment they demanded passed last year and just went into effect. If you abandon or mistreat a dog or a cat you may end up behind bars for it, up to thee years if the animal dies from what you did to it.


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