01/21/11 Modification of the Penal Code
Croatian Ministry of Justice
Members of the Working Group for Drafting the New Penal Code
Dezmanova ulica 6 and 10
Subject: Proposal for the modification of Articles 258 and 260 of the Penal Code
January 21, 2011
We have been informed that your Working Group is currently drafting the new Penal Code. Therefore, we would like to ask you to take into account some suggestions by Animal Friends, which concern the modifications of Articles 258 and 260 of the Penal Code. The reason why we appeal to you is that, during the ten years of our activity and active participation in the making of relevant laws and legal regulations, we have encountered numerous problems in our practice which concern the torturing and killing of animals. We are of the opinion that these problems could be solved far more efficiently by introducing appropriate penalties in terms of Penal Code modifications.
Article 258 of the Penal Code (Poaching Game) runs as follows:
(1) Whoever hunts game during the closed season or within an area where hunting is forbidden, or whoever hunts protected fauna species, or whoever hunts wild game of a particular species without the special license required for such hunting, or whoever hunts in a manner or with devices which are prohibited by regulation or which destroy game on a large scale, or whoever moves game from its habitat to another place without the approval of a competent state authority shall be punished by a fine or by imprisonment not exceeding one year.
(2) Whoever hunts on the hunting ground of another, if his act does not constitute a criminal offense against property, shall be punished by a fine of up to one hundred and fifty daily incomes or by imprisonment not exceeding six months.
We suggest that Article 258 should run as follows:
(1) Whoever hunts game during the closed season or within an area where hunting is forbidden, or whoever hunts pets or animal companions in an inhabited area or beyond, or whoever hunts protected fauna species, or whoever hunts wild game of a particular species without the special license required for such hunting, or whoever hunts in a manner or with devices which are prohibited by regulation or which destroy game on a large scale, or whoever moves game from its habitat to another place without the approval of a competent state authority shall be punished by a fine or by imprisonment not exceeding one year.
(2) Whoever hunts on the hunting ground of another, or whoever hunts pets or animal companions on a hunting ground or beyond, if his act does not constitute a criminal offense against property, shall be punished by a fine of up to one hundred and fifty daily incomes or by imprisonment not exceeding six months.
According to the Animal Protection Act, "It is prohibited to kill animals, subject them to pain, suffering and injury, and intentionally expose them to fear, contrary to the provisions of this Act" (Art. 4, par. 1); "A person finding an abandoned or lost animal is obliged to inform thereof an animal shelter" (Art. 55, par. 2); "Any animal placed in an animal shelter, which has not been returned to its owner and cannot be kept any longer or placed in a foster home, may be humanely killed after 60 days" (Art. 57, par. 4). According to the Hunting Law, "Owners of dogs and cats must not allow their animals to move around the hunting ground without supervision more than 300 m away from the owner’s home" (Art. 55, par. 2); "Licensed hunters have the right to remove dogs and cats moving around the hunting ground contrary to par. 2 of this Law, without any obligation towards the owner of the animal" (Art. 55, par. 3).
Special regulations issued by local administrations define the ways in which dogs should be kept and allowed to move in an urban area or any other settlement. However, it is logical that dogs should be allowed to move freely and run around, which is possible only outside of these zones. If it is done within 300 m from the settlement, it is obvious life-threatening for the guardians of animals who are supervising the dogs, since the hunters cannot see them, which has been proven a number of times when dogs were killed or shot at even though they were near their guardians, namely within those 300 m.
The notion of "removing" is not clarified in Art. 2 on hunting, although it is precisely owing to its ambiguity that it can be interpreted in various ways. In Art. 55, "removing" by no means implies only or primarily "killing." Apparently, the lawmakers were aware of the notions of "catching" and "accommodating" animals, yet these actions are never mentioned in the Hunting Law. This may mean that the term "killing" would have been used if it had been intended. In practice, hunters almost regularly interpret "removing" as "killing," although in cases of a dog's presence on the hunting ground it is hardly possible to use exclusively and primarily the worse version (killing) instead of a more beneficial one (catching, accommodating). When dogs are noticed by hunters, especially those in the vicinity of settlements, they are not necessarily and only stray or intentionally abandoned dogs; they are mostly lost or have wondered away from home, and are sought after by their guardians. However, hunters do not act according to humane and ethical principles, which would offer them a range of options, such as notifying an animal welfare organization, catching an animal by offering food or by using tranquilizer guns. This often leads to tragedies, since hunters tend to shoot at dogs in whose immediate vicinity there are children at play, barely visible in high shrubbery and grass, or the dog’s guardians, who have taken their dogs for a walk and supervise them.
It is obvious that, according to the law, shotguns can be used exclusively on the shooting ground and for killing the game for which the hunter has been licensed, never for killing domestic animals or pets. Shotguns should not even remain loaded outside of the hunting ground, yet this regulation is often ignored and firearms are abused to kill animals and harass other people.
For example, we have been informed in conversation with people or by the media that hunters often threaten those individuals who dare to warn them about their inadequate behavior and the fact that they are violating the law, saying that they will kill their dogs. People are frightened and they try not to enrage the hunters, since they fear for their own life and health, as well as for their families and their animals.
We are of the opinion that including the suggested modifications in Art. 258 of the Penal Code would greatly contribute to curbing the arbitrary behavior of certain hunters, thus preventing accidents involving humans and saving numerous lives of animals, which would secure a more peaceful coexistence to everyone involved. Moreover, the modification would make all those who violates the legal regulations equal before the law in cases involving the killing of dogs and cats, including the hunters, which is of uttermost importance.
Article 260 of the Penal Code (Torturing Animals) runs as follows:
(1) Whoever severely maltreats an animal or exposes it to unnecessary sufferance or causes it unnecessary pain or exposes it to suffering by giving vent to base instincts shall be punished by a fine of up to one hundred and fifty daily incomes or by imprisonment not exceeding six months.
(2) Whoever commits the criminal offense referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article so as to win a bet or otherwise procure a pecuniary gain shall be punished by a fine or by imprisonment not exceeding one year.
(3) Whoever by negligence or by withholding food or water or otherwise exposing an animal during its transport to a difficult condition through a long period of time shall be punished by a fine of up to one hundred daily incomes or by imprisonment not exceeding three months.
We suggest that Article 260, par. 1 should run as follows:
(1) Whoever severely maltreats an animal or exposes it to unnecessary sufferance or causes it unnecessary pain or exposes it to suffering or death by giving vent to base instincts shall be punished by a fine of up to one hundred and fifty daily incomes or by imprisonment not exceeding six months.
In our everyday activity, we often encounter situations in which animals have been killed in an agonizing and painful way, yet they were not exposed to prolonged suffering before being killed in order to give vent to someone's base instincts, which makes it difficult to penalize the perpetrators on the basis of the Penal Code. There have been examples of throwing a dog out of the window from the fourth floor; hanging a dog; killing stray dogs at veterinary stations that are neither licensed as animal shelters nor observe the legal period of 60 days before euthanizing an animal, etc.
It is absurd to penalize torture and if someone "merely kills" an animal to give vent to his or her base instincts, that is not considered a crime. That sends out a wrong message, since it is obvious that causing the death of another creature should be equally punishable. It would lend greater credibility to the Law and clearly show that killing an animal in order to give vent to someone's base instincts is a crime. The present formulation of Article 260, par. 1 may be understood as allowing someone to kill an animal, provided that the animal was not tortured prior to the killing.
A more precise definition in Art. 260 of the Penal Code, altered in a way we are suggesting, would emphasize the importance of the Law in penalizing animal torture and killing, thus making it possible to interpret this article in an unambiguous way and punish the perpetrators more consistently.
Animal abuse, as well as their arbitrary torture and killing, has been increasingly in the focus of psychologists and psychiatrists, who indicate that the torturing and killing of animals is closely related to violence against other people, since individuals who abuse and kill animals often treat their fellow humans in the same way, harassing those who are weaker. It is therefore our opinion that it is extremely important to punish the killing of animals as a crime, which would prevent many cases of animal torture and save many lives, thus raising the general awareness of this problem and creating a more compassionate society.
We are hereby asking the members of the Working Group for Drafting the New Penal Code to take these suggestions for modifying Articles 258 and 260 into consideration and to insert the proposed alterations into the new Penal Code. That would solve the aforementioned ambiguities and contribute to the more efficient punishment of animal abuse.
We remain at your disposal for all additional information, clarification, and cooperation.
We would appreciate if you confirmed the receipt of this letter and informed us on your decision.
President of Animal Friends