06/09/16 The Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act - Animal Friends Association's Remarks

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Article 30 of the current Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act reads:

Any person who leaves unattended and carelessly keeps animals that may harm or endanger citizens or in a public place abuses or otherwise mistreats animals shall incur a fine for the offense.

The Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act amends the existing provision:

Article 28. Careless keeping of animals

(1) Any person who in a public place leaves unattended and carelessly keeps animals or allows animals that can injure or endanger citizens, other animals, or citizen's property to move or linger, and thus disturbs citizens, shall be punished by a fine of 2,000.00 to 5,000.00 kunas.
(2) If the offense referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article has resulted in injury or material damage, the perpetrator shall be punished by a fine of 3,000.00 to 7,000.00 kunas.

The explanation of the proposed Article 28 states that animal cruelty and maltreatment is an offense under the Animal Protection Act, while the Criminal Code criminalizes the killing and tormenting of animals. Animal cruelty and maltreatment were therefore omitted from the Act.

We hold that the provision sanctioning animal cruelty and maltreatment in public places should remain in the Act and that the provision formulated in such way is necessary and commendable.

Explanation:

As an animal protection association, we have witnessed the effectiveness of Article 30 of the Act in practice. Citizens' feedback shows that they are in most cases very satisfied with the police response to calls concerning animal cruelty and maltreatment in public places.

It is very important to sanction animal cruelty and maltreatment in public places and omitting this provision from the Act, as has been proposed, would damage Article 28 and the whole Act.

If this provision be omitted from the Act, citizens will keep calling the police concerning the cases of animal cruelty in public places, but the police will be unable to act because of the lack of written provision, seeing as the Animal Protection Act does not directly regulate animal cruelty in public places. According to a general provision in Article 4 of 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." Responsible for implementing the Act are veterinary inspectors and municipal security officers. It is clear that in the cases of animal maltreatment and cruelty in public places citizens cannot call either one, but only the police, who have the authority to act under the Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act and Criminal Code, but not under the Animal Protection Act.

Article 205 of the Criminal Code refers to the killing and tormenting of animals and sanctions any person who "unjustly kills or severely maltreats an animal or causes it unnecessary pain or exposes it to unnecessary suffering."

It is not clear which legislation should sanction those who in public places, for instance, act aggressively toward a dog, kick or hit it. The abused dog can pose a danger to others, i.e. unassuming passersby. Only the police can act quickly in such situations, whereas veterinary inspection personnel and municipal security officers would take longer to respond. Municipal security officers do not even have the authority to act in such situations. It is only logical for a citizen witnessing animal cruelty in a public place to call the police, and not a veterinary inspector. It should be noted that the public has a great trust in the police after having many times witnessed the police promptly responding and protecting animals and citizens in crises. Citizens are concerned for their own and the safety of their children, who are also exposed to the scenes of animal cruelty in public places.

We also wish to draw attention to Article 48, paragraph 4 of the Animal Protection Act, which states: "It is prohibited to keep and handle a companion animal, or allow it to move, in a way that poses a risk to the health and safety of other animals and people, in particular children." This provision that sanctions reckless keeping and walking of animals that can injure or endanger citizens, other animals, and citizens' property has been adopted into the Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act from the Animal Protection Act. It is therefore unreasonable to omit the important part concerning animal cruelty in public places on the grounds that it is already criminalized as an offense under the Animal Protection Act. Seeing as a provision of the Animal Protection Act has been transferred into the Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act, it is illogical to omit another crucial provision protecting animals from cruelty, as well as citizens, which they can rely on in such situations and promptly call the police.

This is essential because the Animal Protection Act is sadly not being consistently enforced, depriving the public and animals of this logical and important provision, and, subsequently, of concrete protection expected from the police.

In addition, since the Criminal Code regulates the killing and tormenting of animals, regulating animal cruelty and maltreatment by the Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act is the logical next step. We maintain that the Article should only be made more stringent, not loosened. As public concern about animal protection is growing, legal regulations should improve accordingly. The existing provision in Article 30 is also educative because it clearly states that animal cruelty is inappropriate behavior that the public will not watch or tolerate.

We also wish to draw attention to the part of the proposed Article 28 that raises the possibility of causing distress to citizens as a consequence of careless or unsupervised keeping of animals or allowing animals which may injure or endanger citizens, other animals, or citizens' property to move or linger. While we commend the expansion of the provision, we are concerned that it might be misused because of subjective interpretations of distress and the risk that people will opt to resolve their disputes through animals. In such controversial cases, it is not practical for courts to be forced to deal with such issues as, for example, ruffled sensibilities caused by encountering a poodle and so forth.

It is also not entirely clear what is meant by “lingering” of animals that can injure or endanger someone.

The reality is that in the city of Zagreb, as well as in all major European cities, dogs can freely use public city transport, so it is important to legally regulate the actions of irresponsible animal owners in public places. The Offenses against Public Order and Peace Act should therefore protect both animals and people who have witnessed animal cruelty and maltreatment. Abuse can lead to anxiety and fear in the animal, which can cause it to act aggressively towards bystanders.

We believe that the proponents of amending this provision have good intentions, but in view of these arguments and our long-standing practice, we are of the opinion that the proposed Article 28 worded in such way would represent a step backward from the still current Article 30 and could cause problems with interpretation.

We conclude that the current Article 30 pertinently regulates this issue and that the new Article 28 should adopt it in full or with minimal changes—those aimed at improving the Act.

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