Guatemala, Central America’s biggest and most populous nation with more than 15 million people, has adopted one of the world’s most comprehensive anti-cruelty laws – an omnibus measure that, in addition to its basic anti-cruelty provisions, creates protections for wildlife, companion animals, animals used in research, and animals used in circuses. It bans animal testing for cosmetics, and also dogfighting, and establishes penalties for spectators of this cruel activity. The law creates an official government platform to address animal welfare.
It’s the latest gain in our worldwide campaign to promote the adoption of anti-cruelty statutes in every nation in the world. We are finding that more nations are taking a broader look at our relationship with animals and are not restricting their work to the important practice of forbidding random acts of malicious cruelty. They are also tackling organized animal fighting, animal testing, and more.
Last week, newspapers in Guatemala reported a shocking story of animal cruelty: in the municipality of Sololá, San Marcos La Laguna, someone threw pieces of poisoned meat on the street. This was a diabolical and cruel way to kill street dogs. It did produce the desired result, but it also victimized more than a few family pets. The streets were littered with bodies of dead dogs who deserved much better from our species.
While Guatemala had an old law on the books prohibiting dog poisoning, there were no penalties for perpetrators. All that changes now.
This landmark animal welfare law approved today by Guatemala’s Congress — the first ever in the country – will, for the first time, penalize animal cruelty and its perpetrators, and implement strong protections for animals across a spectrum of other fronts.
“The law cracks down on perpetrators of animal cruelty by establishing fines, and setting up the government to deal with cruelty cases,” said Cynthia Dent, global field manager for Humane Society International, whose family has deep roots in Central America. “There has been an increase in the number of cruelty cases in Guatemala in recent years, and with this act, we are going to work to reverse this disturbing trend.” Among other things, the law will promote spay and neuter programs and run responsible pet ownership campaigns to reduce the large population of dogs roaming the streets of Guatemala. It will also outlaw culling, especially using painful methods, and make it illegal to abandon or leave animals to roam.
HSI was deeply involved from the beginning with the drafting and submission of the law. Our staff, led by Cynthia, guided the process of integrating three different pieces of legislation on animal cruelty that were sent to the Guatemalan Congress as part of a single, comprehensive bill. Now, with the law on the books, HSI will expand its presence and campaigns within Guatemala, including helping the government implement the new law.
Besides the freshly minted statute in Guatemala, we’ve worked to pass anti-cruelty legislation in El Salvador and Honduras, and we’ve helped usher in increased penalties for dogfighting in Costa Rica. After the passage of a nationwide dogfighting ban in Mexico in January, Mexico City earlier this month added language to its own constitution, recognizing animals as sentient beings whose welfare must be protected. The constitution of Mexico City now mandates secondary laws to determine penalties for animal abuse and guidelines for wildlife protection and humane farm animal practices.
Our HSI Farm Animal Protection team has also notched up some impressive victories in Latin America in recent years. Just last week, Barilla, the world’s leading pasta maker, confirmed that its Brazil operations will require egg suppliers to transition to cage-free housing systems for egg laying hens by 2020. In 2016, Alsea, the largest restaurant operator in Latin America, pledged to go cage-free, as did Arcos Dorados, the largest operator of McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America and the world, among many others.
Make no mistake, our movement for animal protection is a global one, and there’s no region of the world that should not embrace the idea of reducing violence toward the creatures who share our communities. Today, we took one more big step forward for animals, and we send our thanks to lawmakers in Guatemala for their humanity and decency.
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